ANA Inspiration: Lexi Thompson stays a fixture on leaderboard in quest for second title

Lexi Thompson did nothing Saturday to disrupt the historically good run she is on at the ANA Inspiration. With a 3-under 69, Thompson (...)

ANA Inspiration: Lexi Thompson stays a fixture on leaderboard in quest for second title

Lexi Thompson did nothing Saturday to disrupt the historically good run she is on at the ANA Inspiration. With a 3-under 69, Thompson finished tied for third entering Sunday, a familiar position for her at Mission Hills Country Club.

Thompson won the ANA title in 2014 in a final-round duel with Michelle Wie, then lost the title in 2017 when she famously was hit with four penalty shots on the back nine Sunday for a violation with marking a ball the day before that was picked up on video. Instead of cruising to the title, she lost the championship to Seo Yeon Ryu in a playoff.

But Thompson also had a third-place finish in the event in 2019 and was fifth in 2016. In all, she has five finishes of seventh or better in the last six years.

LEADERBOARD: ANA Inspiration

Now she is in position for a second victory at Mission Hills, a win many fans still feel she deserves. She will start Sunday’s final round just two shots off the lead.

“It would mean the world to me to win another major, especially on this golf course as it’s one of my favorites we play all year,” Thompson said. “Just going to go out tomorrow and keep hitting good shots and hopefully a few more putts will fall on the back nine.”

Lexi Thompson during the third round of the 2020 ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Golf Club. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Low score

Nelly Korda was on a pace through two rounds that could have threatened the ANA Inspiration 72-hole scoring mark. That is 19-under 269 established in 1999 by Dottie Pepper. In winning her second ANA title, Pepper shots rounds of 70-66-67-66. She cruised to the victory over Meg Mallon by six shots. At 12-under through 54 holes, Korda or Brooke Henderson would have to shoot 65 in the final round Sunday to match Pepper’s record.

Queen of the lake

While the tournament is missing much of the pageantry of usual years, at least one veteran Hall of Famer and past champion of the event was at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course on Saturday. That was three-time winner Amy Alcott, winner in 1983, 1988 and 1991 and the player who first dove into the lake around the 18th hole long before it was called Poppie’s Pond. Alcott is a homeowner at Mission Hills, so she can be in her backyard to watch play.

Aces high

Linnea Strom checked of Sweden produced the first 2020 hole-in-one of the tournament Saturday when she aced the par-3 eighth hole. Strom used an 8-iron from 161 yards. The ace capped a three-hole run by Strom that saw her make a double bogey, a bogey and the eagle with the ace. She finished the day with an even-par 72.

Amateur hour

The best finish by an amateur in the history of the ANA Inspiration came in 1988 when Carolina Keggi of the University of New Mexico finished fourth. That record might be in some jeopardy Sunday.

Rose Zhang, the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, is tied for seventh at 8-under par, just four shots off the lead. Zhang, who won the ANA Junior Inspiration and made the cut in the major in 2018, shot 4-under 68 on Saturday including a hole out for an eagle on the second hole.

Zhang is two shots ahead of Gabi Ruffels in the battle for low amateur this year. Ruffels managed a 71 on Saturday despite two double bogeys on the back nine.

Source : Golf Week More   

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PGA Tour Champions: First event with fans gets a crowd for Jack Nicklaus and others

If you attended the second day of the Sanford International at Minnehaha Country Club (and the improved weather resulted in a far (...)

PGA Tour Champions: First event with fans gets a crowd for Jack Nicklaus and others

If you attended the second day of the Sanford International at Minnehaha Country Club (and the improved weather resulted in a far larger crowd Saturday than for Friday’s opener in Sioux Falls, South Dakota), you might have found yourself with a difficult decision by the end of the afternoon.

Who to follow around the course at the PGA Tour Champions event, the first golf event with fans since the pandemic began?

You had the threesome of Steve Stricker, John Daly and Robin Byrd, with Daly clearly asserting himself as the people’s choice after this week’s bladder cancer diagnosis, which he’s promptly responded to with a stellar first two days, checking in at 6-under, three strokes off the lead heading into Sunday.

Stricker, the 2018 champion, shot a 64 Saturday to vault himself into a tie for the lead at 9-under.

Or you could’ve followed the threesome of Miguel Angel Jimenez, David Toms and Dicky Pride, who are all playing spectacular golf this weekend. Pride shot a 5-under 65 on Friday to take the early lead, while Jimenez produced a second straight brilliant round that puts him atop the leaderboard with Stricker at 9-under. Toms is not far behind at 7-under.

Then there was Darren Clarke, who carded a tournament-record 62 on Saturday to pull within one stroke of Stricker, tied with Kevin Sutherland and Fred Couples, who shot a 64 on Saturday, including the shot of the day when he eagled No. 9 with a “slam dunk” chip directly into the hole.

Jack Nicklaus dons a hat with a golden bear on it, emblematic of his nickname, in the EMC Legends Series at the Sanford International on Saturday, September 12, At the Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

And still, with all that going on, it was hard for the spectators not to turn their attention to the back nine at around 4 p.m., when the Legends Series teed off for their nine-hole charity exhibition.

Jack Nicklaus and Andy North took on Hale Irwin and Tony Jacklin. Nicklaus, considered by many to be the greatest golfer of all time, teaming with the two-time U.S. Open winner, and Irwin, the winningest player in PGA Tour Champions history teaming with Jacklin, a British legend and 1970 U.S. Open champion.

Steve Stricker tees off during the Sanford International on Saturday, September 12, At the Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls.

Steve Stricker tees off during the Sanford International on Saturday, September 12, At the Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls.

Nicklaus is 80, Jacklin 76 and Irwin 75, while North was the young pup of the group at 70, and the foursome put on a memorable show that left onlookers in awe throughout their 2½ hour round.

Jacklin and Irwin ended up winning the match play event, their prize being $20,000 to Sanford Children’s Hospital. It dropped North and Nicklaus to 0-3 in the event, a number they were having fun with in a group media session before the round and continued to joke about throughout their trip through Minnehaha’s back nine.

But while fun, camaraderie and charity were clearly the top priorities for the foursome, the exhibition of golf they put on, even in their 70s and beyond, was impressive in its own right.

Jack Nicklaus plays in the EMC Legends Series at the Sanford International on Saturday, September 12, At the Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls.

Jack Nicklaus plays in the EMC Legends Series at the Sanford International on Saturday, September 12, At the Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls.

Nicklaus, who won a battle with COVID-19 earlier this year, doesn’t move very quickly and his swing is an abbreviated version of itself, and that limited his distance off the tee. But the Golden Bear still put virtually every drive right down the middle, and saw a handful of difficult putts just miss giving the throng of fans that surrounded the greens the chance to erupt in celebration (as they so clearly wanted to).

Irwin, who was an all-Big 8 defensive back for the Colorado Buffaloes and later a three-time U.S. Open winner, looks about a dozen years younger than his 75 years and spent his round ribbing the other golfers, chatting with fans and media and making friends with Ben Wieman, the 10-year-old from Madison who was named the Sandford Children’s Hospital Ambassador.

Miguel Jimenez talks with his caddy before teeing off during the Sanford International on Saturday, September 12, At the Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls.

Miguel Jimenez talks with his caddy before teeing off during the Sanford International on Saturday, September 12, At the Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls.

Wieman had been diagnosed with leukemia in 2017 and rang the ball at the Children’s Hospital on April 10 to mark the end of his cancer treatment. North had Wieman take his final putt on No. 18, and the youngster’s presence was extra special when the Legends finished their round and the gift to the Children’s Hospital was made official.

“I think it’s one of the highlights of the week to get three of the greatest players to ever play this game to come in here and spend nine holes having some fun and some laughs and get a chance to compete at whatever level we can compete now,” said North, who nearly chipped one in from 20 yards outside the green on No. 12. “We really do appreciate it.”

Source : Golf Week More   

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