There’s going to be a little bit of everything at play today during the final round at the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. Rolex Ranked No. 17 Angela Stanford extended her lead to four shots after carding a 5-under 67 in the third round on Friday. Honolulu native and No. 23 Michelle Wie (70) and 18-year old sponsor invite Hyo Joo Kim (69) are in a tie for second while 16-time Tour winner Cristie Kerr (70) sits in solo fourth at 8-under par. No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 7 So Yeon Ryu and American rookie Amy Anderson are in a tie for fifth at 6-under par and seven shots off the lead. Take your pick. There are two Tour veterans, a hometown girl, an unlikely teenager, the world’s top-ranked player, and an American rookie in the mix at the top of the board for today’s finale!
Angela Stanford on Top at -13
Wind continued to be a factor at Ko Olina Golf Club on Friday but Stanford, all taped up in order to manage a forearm muscle injury she incurred opening a wine bottle a couple of days ago, battled it effectively, picking up three birdies on the front nine to get her momentum going for the final stretch.
Winless since her 2012 HSBC Women’s Champions victory, Stanford ranks third in the field in putts (80) through three rounds. Her only bogey of the day came on the par 4 10th hole but she fought back by firing off three consecutive birdies on Nos. 11, 12 and 13. The 14-year LPGA Tour veteran said her birdie streaks this week are a bit lucky and credits the layout of the course at Ko Olina.
I just like some of these holes and I think every golfer will tell you, when you play different golf courses, there are some holes you like and some you don’t . . . I’m fortunate that the ones I like are grouped together, so that’s nice. The ones I don’t like are kind of bookends.
Stanford has some good history with leading or co-leading after three rounds. All five of the Texan’s wins have come when she was atop the leaderboard after 54 holes.
Don’t Count Michelle Wie Out Yet
After dropping three shots back after Stanford’s stretch on birdies on the back nine, local favorite Michelle Wie bogeyed the par 4 18th hole to fall four shots off.
Yeah, I left a couple of shots out there today, but I have one more day and hopefully tomorrow I’ll make a lot of birdies and catch up to her . . .
Wie’s going into the final round at the LOTTE Championship playing second fiddle again. She chose to play a conservative, wait-for-Lexi-to-make-a-mistake game at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and it didn’t pay off. Thompson got to take the leap into Poppy’s Pond and Wie got to watch. I hope the six-footer with the long drive gets aggressive and plays a flat-out game today.
Hyo Joo Kim: Eye on the Big Stage
The Korean teenager who swings a golf club like So Yeon Ryu said her goal at the beginning of the week was to finish in the top-10 at this week’s event. She’s starting the final round of the LOTTE Championship within striking distance of recording her first LPGA Tour victory.
Kim is playing in her third LPGA LOTTE Championship and she finished T12 in 2012 and tied for 9th last year. The 18-year old is playing on a sponsor exemption and plays primarily on the KLPGA where she was named the Volvik Rookie of the year in 2013. If Kim were to win tomorrow she would have the opportunity to claim LPGA Tour membership immediately. Asked if she is looking to take her game to the LPGA, Kim said she hasn’t looked down the road that far but says the LPGA is the ultimate goal.
Obviously at the end the day, I want to be at the LPGA. This is big stage, and I want to come play at the LPGA. So if it happens, we’ll see what happens. I definitely eventually want to come play on the LPGA Tour.
Four Power Players Still a Threat
Rolex Ranked No. 11 Cristie Kerr, going into the fourth round at -8 and in solo fourth place on the board, will play an aggressive game to the final putt. Kerr’s trailing the lead by five shots but for a player who’s completely unintimidated by the most challenging lies, those are just five birdies waiting to be drilled.
One stroke behind Kerr, Rolex Ranked No. 1 Inbee Park and No. 7, So Yeon Ruy, are sharing the fifth slot on the board with American rookie Amy Anderson. Park and Ryu can both play effective come-from-behind golf. They have the game in their bags and they know how to manage the pressure of the final round so, even trailing by six strokes, both remain in the mix.
The LOTTE Championship is Anderson’s fifth event. She missed the cut at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, the JTBC Founders Cup, and the Kia Classic and finished the ISPS Hands Women’s Australian Open in a tie for 25th place, and she player her heart out yesterday. If she can do it again today, Anderson will record her first professional top-10 finish.
Outside the Spotlight
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko are going into the final round at the LOTTE Championship at -2 and +1 respectively. Both teenagers fell back a bit yesterday as they struggled to manage the windy conditions.
Lizette Salas, who played a brilliant and heroic come-from-behind final round last year, and Ryann O’Toole, one of the fan picks for the 2014 LOTTE Championship, are coming into the final round today at +2, well behind Stanford’s lead.
Paula Creamer, who simply couldn’t get her putter going at Ko Olina, and 2015 Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster are starting the final round at five strokes over par.
Fourth Round Tee Times & TV Coverage
Ryann O’Toole tees off today in the first group with Hee Young Park and Erica Popson at 9:25am local time, 3:25pm ET. Leader Angela Stanford, playing in a threesome with Michelle Wie and Hyo Joo Kim, tees off at 11:25am local time, 5:25pm ET. Golf Channel coverage of the final round begins at 6:30pm ET and continues until 10:30pm ET. Who will dance the hula tonight?