Golf roundup: Minjee Lee, Billy Horschel take leads; Kevin Na to play Saudi league
Minjee Lee appears to be on a mission.
The 26-year-old Australian shot a four-under-par 67 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead over American Mina Harigae into the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open in Southern Pines, N.C.
“My approach [Sunday] is going to be the same as the last three days — I’m just going to try and make as many birdies as I can and give myself as many opportunities as I can on the greens,” Lee said.
At 13-under 200, Lee is within striking distance of the U.S. Women’s Open scoring record in relation to par held by Juli Inkster, who finished at 16-under 272 in 1999 at Old Waverly. Inkster did that on a par-72 course, while par is 71 at Pine Needles.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” Lee said. “If I play good, it’s going to come with it, right?”
The fourth-ranked Lee won the Founders Cup three weeks ago in New Jersey in the tour’s last stroke-play event for her seventh LPGA Tour victory. She’s trying to win her second major title after taking the 2021 Evian Championship.
Harigae shot a 70. England’s Bronte Law was third at seven under after a 68.
South Korea’s Jin Young Ko and American Nelly Korda, the top players in the world ranking, failed to take advantage of moving day.
With an abundance of rising young stars gaining notoriety, women’s golf is drawing more attention — and sponsorships — in the post-COVID era.
The top-ranked Ko struggled with her putter and finished at even-par 71, leaving her tied for fourth place at six under with three-time major winner Anna Nordqvist, Xiyu Lin, Lydia Ko, Hye-Jin Choi and amateur Ingrid Lindblad. Lydia Ko had the best round of the day with a 66, while Lin shot a 67, Jin Young Ko turned in a 71, and Nordqvist and Choi had 72s.
Korda was four under after a 70.
“Definitely not the finish I wanted,” said Korda, who bogeyed the last three holes after battling to get to seven under.
Billy Horschel leads Memorial
Billy Horschel is more concerned with the way he is playing than the size of his lead in the Memorial. Either way, he’s in good shape going into the final round.
On a Muirfield Village course that is getting increasingly firm, Horschel hasn’t made a bogey since the 10th hole of his opening round. There were five players tied for the lead at one point. Horschel finished the day five strokes ahead in Dublin, Ohio.
It was the second consecutive year for a big 54-hole lead at the Memorial. Horschel at least gets a chance to finish the job.
One year after Jon Rahm built a six-shot lead — only to be forced to withdraw after the third round because of a positive COVID-19 test — Horschel delivered a gem on a gorgeous afternoon with a seven-under 65 for the largest 54-hole lead of his career.
Horschel chipped in for birdie on his opening hole. Everything else was simply solid, with only one other birdie putt outside the 10-foot range.
He was at 13-under 203, five shots clear of Aaron Wise (69) and Cameron Smith (72).
“I just go to the tee understanding I’m leading the tournament. I know I’ve got however many shots I have ahead,” Horschel said. “I’m not going to be protective. I’m not going to be overly aggressive. I’m going to play the way I have the last three days.”
Ukraine will qualify for its first World Cup in 16 years with a win over Wales on Sunday, an emotional lift for the country invaded by Russia.
He will be going for his sixth individual title and seventh PGA Tour victory.
Daniel Berger had a 67 and was six shots behind along with Jhonattan Vegas and 2018 British Open champion Francesco Molinari, who hasn’t had a top-five finish since the 2019 Masters.
Defending champion Patrick Cantlay, a former UCLA standout, began his round by pulling his tee shot into a stream and making double bogey. He atoned for that with a pair of eagles. He finished with three consecutive par putts from outside eight feet and shot a 69. He was seven behind.
That would appear to be too far back — the largest comeback at the Memorial is five shots, most recently 15 years ago by K.J. Choi. Then again, players have rallied from seven strokes behind to win the last two weeks — Sam Burns at Colonial and Justin Thomas in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
Na resigns as tour member
Kevin Na became the first player to publicly resign from the PGA Tour, four days after the Saudi-financed LIV Golf Invitational listed him in the field for next week’s debut of the new series.
Na is one of six players to have resigned, a person with knowledge of their decisions told the Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the players have not said. Na announced his decision on social media.
Na is No. 33 in the world and among four players from the top 50 who have signed up for Saudi riches to play in Greg Norman’s new league of 48-man fields over 54 holes and as much as $25 million in prize money for each event.
The first one starts Friday outside London.
“I would like the freedom to play wherever I want and exercising my right as a free agent gives me that opportunity,” he wrote. “However to remain a PGA Tour player, I must give up my right to make these choices about my career.”
Na is a five-time PGA Tour winner with $37.9 million in career earnings.
The PGA Tour requires members to play 15 times a year, and it historically grants releases for at least three overseas tournaments a year. However, it denied releases for the LIV Golf Invitational because of its threat as a series of eight tournaments, five of them in the United States.
Alker tied for Champions lead
Steven Alker topped yet another PGA Tour Champions leaderboard, shooting an eight-under 64 for a share of the second-round lead in the Principal Charity Classic at Des Moines, Iowa.
Coming off a victory last week in Michigan in the major Senior PGA Championship, Alker played the four par-five holes at Wakonda Club in five under — making an eagle and three birdies — to match fast-closing Jerry Kelly, first-round leader Kirk Triplett and Brett Quigley at 13-under 131.
Alker is trying to win for the fifth time in his last 12 events. The 50-year-old New Zealander spent the bulk of his career on the Korn Ferry Tour and a few seasons on the PGA Tour and the European Tour. Last week at Benton Harbor, he closed with an eight-under 63 for a three-shot victory.
Kelly shot a 66, the 60-year-old Triplett followed an opening 63 with a 68, and Quigley had a 66. Bernhard Langer was a stroke back after a 66.
Top-ranked Iga Swiatek beat 18-year-old American Coco Gauff 6-1, 6-3 in the French Open final to collect her second title at Roland Garros.
Hole in one boosts Perez
A hole in one helped Victor Perez take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the European Open in Winsen, Germany, with a chance to win a second title in as many weeks.
The Frenchman, winner of the Dutch Open last weekend, shot a one-under 71 thanks to a great start at Green Eagle — a birdie on the par-four first hole and a hole in one on the par-three second.
At five-under 211, Perez moved from two behind overnight leader and playing partner Jordan Smith to one in front of Joakim Lagergren of Sweden (71) and Julien Brun of France (71). Smith carded a five-over 77 and dropped four shots behind.
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