BELLEAIR, Fla. (AP) — Allisen Corpuz is closing out a solid rookie year on the LPGA Tour, and now the Hawaii native has a chance to make it even better at the Pelican Women’s Championship.
Corpuz made four birdies in a six-hole stretch in the middle of her second round Saturday and had another 5-under 65, giving her a one-shot lead going into the final round of the penultimate LPGA Tour event of the year.
Right behind Corpuz is a group of top contenders, making that one-shot lead feel even smaller.
Maja Stark of Sweden, who starred at Oklahoma State and earned LPGA Tour membership with a co-sanctioned win in Northern Ireland this summer, had eight birdies at Pelican Golf Club — none on the par 5s — for a 63.
She was one shot behind along with Lexi Thompson (67) and Maria Fassi of Mexico, who followed her career-best 62 with a hard-earned 69 that left the 24-year-old in position to win for the first time and qualify for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
Corpuz, twice an All-American while at Southern California and a Curtis Cup player, didn’t make a bogey until her final hole at the par-3 ninth.
She was at 10-under 130.
The tournament has been cut short to 54 holes because of heavy rain from Tropical Storm Nicole that washed out the opening round.
The Pelican Women’s Championship is the final event for the leading 60 players in the CME Race to the Globe to qualify for the final event, which has a $7 million purse with a record $2 million for the winner.
Fassi is at No. 72 and needs a strong week to advance. She was in a three-way tie for second going into the final round, which would be enough.
But so many players are in contention.
Nelly Korda (66) and Carlota Ciganda (68) were two shots out of the lead. Twelve players were separated by four shots going into the final round.
“I think that I have to play good golf tomorrow to come out at the top. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing in the last group or a few behind,” Fassi said. “I think if you post a good round, that’s all really I can do. I’m just happy that I’m in contention. I’m happy we’re even having this conversation.”
About the only one missing was Lydia Ko, who played her final 11 holes in even par and had to settle for a 69. That left her seven shots behind — with 26 players ahead of her. Ko could have wrapped up LPGA Player of the Year with a victory.
Now it starts with Corpuz going for her first win in her rookie season.
“Just had a good year so far and kind of want to end the season on a good note,” Corpuz said. “Trying to put myself in position for tomorrow, and, yeah really happy that I can be where I am.”
Korda and Thompson have yet to win on the LPGA Tour this year — for Thompson, the drought goes back three years. Both won on the Saudi-funded Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour this year, Korda in Spain, Thompson in New York.
A year ago, they were part of a three-way playoff at Pelican that Korda won with a birdie. Now it’s a mix of major champions and rookies and a sprint to the finish.
“Experience helps, but at the same time, golf is such a crazy game. Anybody can have their days out there and bring their A-game,” Thompson said. “That’s what you never know about it. Every day can be different. There are so many great players out here. You have to play your top-notch game every time you tee it up and you have to make birdies and shoot low, especially if the weather is going to be nice.”
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