Paula Reto & MJ Hur Set for Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic Sunday Shootout


I always look forward to tight and hard-fought Sunday rounds.  The Sunday Shootout gets my blood moving!  But LPGA rookie Paula Reto and 5-year Tour player MJ Hur have gone one better and turned the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic Shootout into an amazing 2-day event.  Playing in the final group on Saturday, the pair traded shot-for-shot through 18 holes and turned the back nine into a preview of what’s likely to unfold today.  With Stacy Lewis and Kris Tamulis trailing the co-leaders by 4 shots and needing to get off to a hot start to close the gap in order to have a chance for the win, Reto and Hur are all set now to take the battle all the way to the 72nd hole this afternoon!

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Mi Jung Hur

With her diminutive father on the bag — a small carry-bag Hur selected to ease his burden — MJ Hur steadily shot her way up the leaderboard Saturday at the RTJ Golf Trail Capitol Hill Senator Course and into a share of 1st place.

Hur’s an unlikely candidate for a Sunday Shootout.  She’s not recorded a victory since 2009, her rookie year on the Tour, when she won the Safeway Classic, and she’s generally been a middle of the pack player.  But something seems to have clicked into place recently for Hur.  She finished T9th at the Portland Classic in August and then T3rd at the Evian Championship earlier this month.

With her smooth-as-silk swing and laser-sharp putting — at 28.94 putts per round Hur’s ranked number 1 on the Tour, just edging out Inbee Park — world ranked number 94 MJ Hur may have found her rhythm in Alabama.  She followed a bogey-free 1st round 64 with a 70 on Friday and a 67 on Saturday.  If she can deliver another low round today Hur could be looking at a career turn-around.

Paula Reto

Hur’s going to need to stay ahead of rookie Paula Reto, though, in order to collect the win, and despite a double bogey stumble on the par-3 7th on Saturday, Reto’s playing some terrific golf.  She’s striking the ball with authority and striding down the fairways with easy, relaxed confidence.

Like Hur, Reto delivered a bogey-free first round 65 on Thursday and followed up with a 66 on Friday.  Saturday was a bit rough but Reto held on to her distance off the tee advantage over Hur, which offset Hur’s edge on the putting surface and kept the duo in a back 9 shootout.

Now the question for Reto becomes one hinging on consistency and mental  durability.  Does the rookie have what it takes to come back on Sunday and close the deal?

Stacy Lewis and Kris Tamulis: Double Threat?

Stacy Lewis and Kris Tamulis are coming into the 4th round trailing the co-leaders by 4 strokes, a not-insurmountable distance but probably a shorter one for the world ranked number 1 Lewis than for Tamulis, who’s ranked 200th and, playing her 10th year on the Tour, still on the hunt for her first victory.

Still, Tamulis found her game on Saturday when she carded a bogey-free 65, the low round of the day, and the Capitol Hill Senator is offering up abundant birdie opportunities, so with the right combination — a stumble or two by Hur and Reto, for example — I can see Tamulis gliding right on up the leaderboard and claiming an unlikely win.

There’s just no denying Stacy Lewis’s threat.  It’s always there.  Lewis has the ability to step up to the tee this afternoon, dial in her game, and deliver a death blow to everybody’s hopes and dreams with a low-60s round.  The course is receptive, the weather’s perfect, and I never count Lewis out of the game.

Sunday Schedule

Play is under way at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic.  Golf Channel will begin live coverage of the final round at 5pm ET and combine highlights from the day with coverage of the final groups’ back nine.

Follow me on Twitter @bethbethel and I’ll notify you when I post commentary and updates on today’s round as well as other women’s pro golf news.