SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN, Ariz. — The weather has improved steadily each day and so has the scoring at the 2023 LPGA Drive On Championship.
On Saturday during the third round, Korea’s Amy Yang shot the best score of the week, a 9-under 63. She had 10 birdies, five on each side, and just one bogey. Her 63 ties the tournament’s low round in its official two-year history.
“I hit it so solid out there, especially my second shot going into the green was really solid,” she said. “My putting worked really well today. I could see the break. Just over the ball I could see the break and the speed, just one of those days you just got the good feeling about your playing. So I just enjoyed it out there.”
Yang opened 70-70 to get to 4 under through 36 holes. She made the cut by a shot and started her Saturday round at 9 a.m.
She seemed to like the course conditions early in the day.
“I think it helped the ball wasn’t release so much like yesterday afternoon. I think that really helped.”
Yang, 33, turned pro in 2008 and has four LPGA victories, three of them in the Honda LPGA Thailand. A win in Arizona on Sunday would be her first in the U.S.
A few hours later, Norway’s Celine Borge matched Yang’s 63. Playing in her first LPGA event since 2019, Borge opened with four straight birdies, then closed out her round birdie-eagle for a back-nine 31.
Not to be outdone, Ariya Jutanugarn shot a third-round 63, riding nine birdies without a bogey to claim a share of the clubhouse lead. Jutanugarn, who said she missed some short putts which could’ve made her score even lower, had five birdies in a row on Nos. 6-10. She then closed with three birdies in a row on Nos. 16, 17 and 18.
Mina Harigae, one of the nearly dozen LPGA players with special membership status at Superstition Mountain, had her second shot on 18 lip out during Saturday’s third round.
Yep, she was oh-so-close to recording an albatross. It would’ve been the second in as many days.
A week after getting hitched here at Superstition Mountain, Mina Harigae just left an albatross at the altar — lipping out her 2nd shot on the Par 5 18th from 203. She’s never made one. Hubby Travis did once. “That’s the only thing I have on her. #LPGADriveOn pic.twitter.com/IZx0SSaJUh
— Grant Boone (@grantboone) March 25, 2023
The near-miss comes one week after she got married at the course to Travis Kreiter.
Yuka Saso recorded one Friday on the par-5 second hole, the first one on the LPGA in three years.
Go low on 18
The par-5 18th hole, measuring just over 500 yards this week, is playing as the easiest hole during the first two rounds. The scoring average through 36 holes was 4.594 and players racked up 82 birdies in the first round and, despite a back-left pin location that was guarded by the lake that runs down the left side of the hole, another 57 in the second. There were also three eagles on 18 in the first round and another in the second before Harigae’s and Borge’s on Saturday.
The final hole is likely to provide scoring opportunities all week and could set the stage for some final-round theatrics from the contenders.
“I feel like you need to take advantage of all the par-5s out here,” said Nelly Korda, the second-ranked player in the women’s game. “I think whenever you par a par 5 you definitely lose one on the field because they’re all pretty reachable.”
About that tournament history
The two 2020 Drive On events as well as the 2021 tournament were at the time staged as one-offs as the LPGA was seeking to create playing opportunities for its players during the COVID pandemic.
The event didn’t become an official, regular LPGA tournament until last year. Also, when Leona Maguire won it a year ago, it was a 54-hole event. Whoever wins it this year will establish the tournament’s 72-hole scoring record.
The future status of the Drive On is unclear. The 2024 schedule has not been finalized, nor has Superstition Mountain been named as a future host of the event.