Jutanugarn, Ko share 2-shot lead in LPGA Tour’s LA tourney
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.
Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.
Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year’s first two-time winner on the LPGA Tour. She won the Women’s Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.
“I’m ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,” said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. “I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.”
Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.
Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.
“If she’s not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,” Moriya said about Ariya.
Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.
“I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I’m really happy with that,” Park said. “I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Moriya Jutanugarn’s round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.
“Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,” Jutanugarn said. “I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.”
Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.
Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.
“It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,” Inglis said.
Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.
Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.
Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.
Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.
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