Ciganda takes 2-stroke lead into LPGA final round
IRVING, Texas (AP) — When Carlota Ciganda got to her half-submerged ball in a concrete drainage ditch right of the 12th fairway, her only thought was whether to hit 8- or 9-iron.
With about 140 yards to the pin, her caddie suggested 8-iron because the ball was in the water.
Ciganda hit that shot to about 10 feet and made the birdie, part of the Spaniard’s 5-under 66 on Saturday. That gave her a two-stroke lead over Inbee Park, the world’s No. 1 player, and LPGA Tour rookie Caroline Masson going into the final round of the inaugural North Texas LPGA Shootout.
“Well, it was unbelievable,” Ciganda said about the shot from the ditch. “I didn’t think much. I just tried to hit it as well as I could, and I think I was pretty lucky. ”
After her second 66 this week to get to 11-under 202, Ciganda will have a chance Sunday for her first LPGA Tour victory — against some tough competition.
Park, from South Korea, finished her third-round 67 with consecutive birdies. Na Yeon Choi, the No. 3 player and also from South Korea, was 8 under and alone in fourth after a bogey-free 66.
“When it comes to the final round, I think a more experienced player definitely has an advantage going into the pressure conditions. I think Na Yeon will be one of the ones to beat,” Park said.
After holding the lead throughout her entire third round, and having only one bogey, Ciganda plans to keep the same approach Sunday.
“I was just trying to focus on my game, just trying to play my own game and stay in the present,” Ciganda said. ” I wasn’t very nervous. Just a round of golf. I love playing golf and I feel very lucky to be here on the LPGA.”
After trailing Masson for two days, Ciganda finally took the lead after opening the third round with a par. That was the same hole that Masson, one of her playing partners in the final group, had a double-bogey 6.
Masson, also looking for her first LPGA victory, had managed to keep the lead through the first two rounds even after bogeys on three of her last four holes Friday.
But her one-stroke advantage was gone soon after an approach shot at No. 1 dropped short and buried into a bunker. The 23-year-old German then blasted over and through the green.
“Actually hit a good drive. ... We just misjudged the wind a little bit and I had the wrong cut, hit it in the bunker. Had a fried egg, pretty bad lie,” Masson said. “It’s always tough to have a hole like that on the first hole, but yeah, I stayed pretty calm.”
Masson recovered for a 69 that included a birdie at the par-5 18th, the same hole she bogeyed Friday after her first two shots landed behind trees.
“It’s kind of cool because I think a few years ago maybe, my game would have fallen apart after a start like that,” she said. “So I’m pretty happy, and kind of a little proud as well, that I handled it so well and that I could actually finish with a birdie, especially since I had that bad finish (Friday).”
Ciganda played last season on the Ladies European Tour, where she was the top rookie and the top money winner — the first player since Laura Davies in 1985 to accomplish that.
Masson, who played the last three years in Europe, was the second-leading money leader last year behind Ciganda.
Ciganda has the same agent as fellow Spanish player Sergio Garcia, who the 22-year-old calls a good friend. Garcia was 21 when he got his first PGA Tour victory not far from Las Colinas Country Club at the 2001 Colonial, then got another victory three years later at the Byron Nelson Championship played only a few blocks away.
Choi, a seven-time LPGA Tour winner, has played 35 consecutive holes without a bogey. The 25-year-old South Korean was tied briefly for the lead after birdies on three of her first four holes Saturday, though the only par-saver she really needed while hitting 17 of 18 greens was a putt from about 20 feet after going into a greenside bunker at the 390-yard 15th.
“I had a great round today, but still, I feel like kind of a little left something. You know, I missed a couple birdie putts out there,” Choi said.
Jee Young Lee (67), Karine Icher (67), Christina Kim (67) and So Yeon Ryu (68) were tied for fifth at 6 under.
This is the first full-field LPGA event in North Texas since the 1991 U.S. Women’s Open. The area hasn’t been an annual tour stop since 1982.
When the initial cut was made at 3 over after the second round, 80 of 144 players made it. There was another cut after the third round, with 51 players advancing at 1 over or better. Haley Mills and Taylor Coleman, the Texas teenagers who made into the field through a Monday qualifier for high school students, made it Saturday but didn’t make the cut to play in the final round.
Brittany Lang, from nearby McKinney, was in shock after finishing her even-par third round at No. 9. That is when her boyfriend came onto the green, went to a knee and proposed marriage. Lang said yes.