April 28, 2013

Spanish golfer holds 2-stroke lead in global battle at North Texas LPGA Shootout

Carlota Ciganda is trying to become the fourth Spaniard to win on the LPGA Tour.

With one notable exception at the North Texas LPGA Shootout, the No. 1 hole at the Las Colinas Country Club has had a negative impact on all those who have dared to sink a tee and explore the sloping, rolling fairway terrain.

Carlota Ciganda is only one of two players in the top 10 to play the hole under par through three rounds, and it has proved a difference maker for the tournament leader, whose 11 under par, three-round total is two strokes better than her closest pursuers.

Ciganda, who has played the 426-yard, par-4 No. 1 at 1 under, used a handy 8-iron from the drainage ditch on No. 12 — the third-toughest hole of the week — and fired a six-birdie, one-bogey 5-under 66 in the third round.

She enters Sunday’s final round ahead of the 9 under of Inbee Park — who bogeyed No. 1 on Saturday — and Caroline Masson — the 36-hole leader who recorded double-bogey 6 right out of the chute Saturday.

Na Yeon Choi, who matched Ciganda’s low round of the day and made one of nine birdies on No. 1 Saturday, is three strokes back.

“I just tried to hit my driver left middle of the fairway and then just hit a good shot into the green,” Ciganda, who is seeking her first LPGA Tour win, said of the key to her success on the first hole.

“I don’t think much on the course. Just hit the ball and see what will happen.”

That’s the same mentality Ciganda is taking into Sunday. She has played the most consistently well all week, scoring under par each day, including a second 5-under posting in Round 1.

The Europeans will undoubtedly be at a disadvantage today in terms of experience.

Ciganda will be paired with Park, the world’s top-ranked women’s player, in the last pairing of the day at 12:40 p.m. Sunday. Masson, a German native and former European tour standout, is matched with Choi, the world’s third-ranked player.

Among those no longer in the running is Angela Stanford, the Fort Worth golfer who was undermined by four bogeys on the front nine, including No. 1.

She is nine strokes back after a 1-over 72.

Only five of the 80 players who passed by on No. 1 on Saturday hit the fairway, a paltry 6.3 percent. As a result, only 42 percent hit the green in regulation.

No. 1 has been most inhospitable all week, ranking as the most difficult hole.

It has accounted for 112 bogeys — 22 more than the next closest — and 14 double bogeys through the first three rounds.

Masson was actually a member of the minority who hit the fairway on the first hole, but her second shot strayed and buried deep in the green-side trap.

She rebounded by shooting 4 under over the next 17 holes to record 2 under for the day.

“I stayed calm,” said Masson. “After that I played really well. Overall, I think it’s still a pretty good round.”

Ciganda, meanwhile, preserved her margin by escaping trouble on 12. Her drive steered right and into a drainage ditch, and her ball was slightly submerged in water.

On advice from her caddie, she clubbed up from 140 yards and hit 8-iron to within 10 feet. She followed with a successful birdie putt.

The 22-year-old will be attempting to join Beatriz Recari, Azahara Munoz and Marta Figueras-Dotti as the only Spaniards to win on tour.

“It would be a dream,” Ciganda said. “I want to try to focus on each shot… try my best and see what happens.”

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