CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) Nanna Koerstz Madsen tied for the lead in the JTBC Classic when she teeed off Saturday on the par-4 18. She putt two for par and a 3-under 69 – and came away with an unexpected three-stroke lead over Na Rin An.
After a decisive victory two weeks ago in Thailand that made her the first Danish champion on the LPGA Tour, Koerstz Madsen took advantage of An’s final triple bogey to retire to Aviara Golf Club.
“I think it will be easier to approach tomorrow with a lead than in Thailand,” said Koerstz Madsen. “You still have all the excitement in your body that you have control tomorrow. … Three can change on two holes. … I still have to do my business, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
An, the South Korean rookie who earned his tour membership as an LPGA Q-series medalist, won the short par-4 16th and birdied the par-5 17th to tie Koerstz Madsen in head.
But on the 18th, trying to get out of the cart path near the green, An shot the ball low into the pavement of the path, sending it bouncing down the path. She managed to hit her next shot out of the way on the edge of the green and made a 7 for a 69.
“It is what it is,” An said. “I was thinking about the best way to finish the hole with the lowest possible score.”
Koerstz Madsen said: “I’ve been there several times.”
Koerstz Madsen bounced back from her own three-stroke collapse when she bogeyed the par-4 seventh and double-bogeyed the par-5 eighth. She quickly stabilized, birdieing the par-4 9th and par-5 10th.
“It tells me I’ve come a long way,” Koerstz Madsen said. “Normally I would probably have panicked after that 8. I wasn’t happy with my double bogey on the 8, but I knew there were a lot of chances.”
Koerstz Madsen had a total of 14 under 202 in the final event before the first major of the season next week at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage.
Top-ranked Jin Young Ko, playing alongside An, hit water on 18 en route to a bogey and 70 that left her tied for third at 10 under with Pajaree Anannarukarn (69) and Maude-Aimee Leblanc (70).
“Today was a tough round for me,” Ko said. “I had a lot of chances to birdie. I missed a lot of putts today. The greens are really, really, really tricky. … I try to be patient on the course.
After picking up a victory three weeks ago in Singapore, Ko took his record for consecutive laps below par to 33. She has won six of her last 10 tournaments.
Lilia Vu (65), Nasa Hataoka (68), Charley Hull (68), Janie Jackson (69) and Hye-Jin Choi (68) were at 9 cents.
Lydia Ko, the 2016 winner, had a 74 to drop seven strokes back. She won the Gainbridge LPGA in January. Defending champion Inbee Park was also seven strokes behind after a 70.
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