PHOENIX – Yu Liu got through a stressful final-group pairing Saturday to take the Founders Cup lead, outplaying top-ranked Sung Hyun Park. She’ll have do it again Sunday, this time alongside Carlota Ciganda, to win her first LPGA Tour title.
Liu shot a 7-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead over Ciganda into the final round at low-scoring Desert Ridge, while Park struggled with bogeys and missed birdie chances to drop four shots behind,
“I’m not very comfortable and not very used to playing in the last group,” said Liu, the 23-year-old Chinese player in her second year on the tour, “I’ve had two experiences before and I didn’t do very well. Today was definitely a turnaround.”
Liu played the final four holes in 4 under, making an eagle on the par-5 15th and birdieing the last two to reach 19-under 197 in the event that honors the 13 women who founded the LPGA Tour.
She broke a tie with Ciganda with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th with Founders Marlene Bauer Hagge, Marilynn Smith and Shirley Spork looking on from a stage on the edge of the green.
“Playing golf for a living is definitely not something that I take for granted,” Liu said. “I really appreciate what the Founders have done for us.”
The former Duke player rebounded from a bogey on the par-3 14th with the eagle on 15 – hitting a 5-iron from 190 yards to 20 feet – and made a 5-footer on the par-3 17th.
Ciganda shot a 63 to match the best score of the week, playing the final five in 5 under with an eagle and three birdies. She’s trying to become the second former Arizona State player to win the event, following 2017 champion Anna Nordqvist.
“When you make putts, it’s great,” Ciganda said. “I’ve been playing great, hitting lots of green, so it was a matter of making putts.”
She set up the eagle on the 479-yard 15th with a 7-iron to 12 feet.
“They put the tee up today,” Ciganda said. “I knew if I hit a good driver it was going to be a short iron.”
The Spaniard also made a 15-footer on 18. She won her two LPGA Tour titles in 2016 in South Korea and Mexico.
Angel Yin was 16 under after a 66.
“I’m going to try to do the same I’ve been doing the past three days and just play my game,” the long-hitting American said. “If it works, it works.”
Park, the winner three weeks ago in Singapore in the last tour event, had three bogeys in a 69. The South Korean star began the round tied for the lead with upstart playing partner Liu.
“I was just trying to get myself mentally prepared for the round and just play my own game,” Liu said. “She’s just a player that I’ve been looking up to a lot. I had a couple experiences playing with her, but I did really bad the previous few. Today I was just controlling my emotions and staying in my own game.”
Hyo Joo Kim (64), Jin Young Ko (64), Women’s Australian Open champion Nelly Korda (66) and Lydia Ko (67) matched Park at 15 under. Lydia Ko saved par on 18 with a close shot from the deep left bunker.
“To make an up-and-down from a place where it could have been a lot worse, I’ll take it,” Ko said. “I don’t even want to talk about the second shot. It was probably the worst shot of my whole time here in Phoenix.
Shanshan Feng, the only Chinese winner in tour history, had a 64 to join 2016 champion Sei Young Kim (67), Bronte Law (65), Jessica Korda (67), Charlotte Thomas (67) and Mi Jung Hur (69) at 13 under.
Azahara Munoz, Ciganda’s teammate at Arizona State, matched her fellow Spaniard with a 63 to reach 12 under.
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