NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Behind just about every green at Tiburon Golf Club was a leaderboard with more information than Stacy Lewis could digest.
Julieta Granada was at the top, and she stayed there all of Saturday with a 2-under 70 to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship. Lewis had more reason to be rattled by the name of Lydia Ko making a run and climbing to within three shots of the lead, boosting her chances of the $1 million bonus.
Only one thing was clear. Sunday was shaping up as a nail-biting end to the LPGA Tour season.
Granada had control of the tournament, but just barely. The 28-year-old from Paraguay rammed in a birdie putt across the 15th green, gave it back with a three-putt bogey on the next hole and finished at 9-under 207.
Granada had a one-shot lead over Morgan Pressel and Carlota Ciganda of Spain, who both made big putts on the 18th. Ciganda made an 8-foot par putt for a 71, while Pressel hit 7-iron to 5 feet for birdie and a 70. They will be in the final group, all thinking only of a $500,000 check for winning the Tour Championship.
The commotion was right behind them.
Sunday also concludes the Race to CME Globe, a points race with a winner-take-all bonus of $1 million, the biggest payoff in women’s golf. Lewis still had the edge, but only slightly over Ko and So Yeon Ryu, with Michelle Wie very much in the running.
Good thing Lewis majored in finance and accounting at Arkansas.
“I don’t know exactly how it all works, but there are people on the leaderboard I’m definitely cheering for over others,” Lewis said, honest as ever. “I’ve been thinking about all these awards and the Race to the Globe for three, four weeks now. Unfortunately, that’s not going to go away overnight.”
Lewis tightened her grip on the LPGA player of the year and effectively wrapped up the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average when Inbee Park (73) faltered. Lewis hit every fairway and missed only two greens in her round of 70. It was enough to move her into a tie for 10th, and while she remains six shots out of the lead, she still is atop the Race to CME Globe standings by a slim margin.
Ko wound up with a 68 with her birdie on the 18th. She was tied for fifth, three shots behind and tied with Ryu, who had her third straight 70. Ko would only have to win the Tour Championship to capture the $1 million bonus. Ryu and Wie would need some help.
All of it will be settled over 18 holes on Sunday, and there’s even a chance for a playoff to decide who gets the winner-take-all bonus.
“I still have a chance — I’m not out of it,” Wie said after her up-and-down day of even-par 72. “That’s all I can ask for. I’m excited for the opportunity tomorrow, and we’ll see what happens. I’m just going to play as hard as I can and see what I can do.”
Ko, the 17-year-old rookie, made the biggest move. She is No. 3 in the standings, meaning a victory Sunday would guarantee the $1 million bonus (along with $500,000 for winning the tournament). She took on more than she intended with a 6-iron that flirted with trouble left of the 18th green. Instead, it took a hop to the right and settled 3 feet away for a birdie.
“I come to the press room or get asked by the media, and that’s when I go, ‘Oh, there’s is $1 million on the line.’ When I’m out there, I’m trying to make as many birdies as I can,” Ko said. “I think that’s actually keeping me a little distracted.”
Wie is No. 4 and Ryu is No. 5 in the standings, meaning they need to finish strong and have Ko and Lewis lose some ground to have any chance.
But it’s all right there for any four of them on Sunday.
Granada was the first instant millionaire in LPGA history when she won a winner-take-all format at the ADT Championship eight years ago, her only LPGA victory. At stake is a chance for her to go wire-to-wire for another big prize.
Pressel has gone six years without a win, and that’s all that matters to her. The Tour Championship is all she can win, and Pressel isn’t even up to speed on anything else.
“Someone is going to win $1 million, and it’s not going to be me,” Pressel said. “But there’s other things I can win.”
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