Apr 4th, 2021
Tavatanakit in control at ANA Inspiration
2020/21 Rookie's leads the field by five shots
Photography: Getty Images
Tavatanakit, a 2020/21 LPGA Tour rookie, fired off three consecutive birdies in her first three holes, distancing herself from the surge of major champions and Tour winners lurking behind. The former UCLA All-American knew how crucial the fast start was toward building momentum.
“It's always nice to have a good start to feel a little bit more comfortable throughout the day. I was hitting it really good. I'm putting so well right now. Just really pleased with how everything played out,” said Tavatanakit.
“Obviously it was a little tough today, too, toward the end. It was hot. It was getting windy. Even though like I shot good scores, like the process was still a little bit challenging.”
Tavatanakit turned for home on thirteen-under, but as the temperatures rose, she founds things more challenging on her back nine. The Thai native and 2019 Symetra Tour Player of the Year carded three birdies and two bogeys in her final nine holes and said staying patient was the key to overcoming the day’s challenges.
“I play aggressive when I can be and you got to play smart golf. It's a major championship. It's pins are tough, tough conditions,” said Tavatanakit. “You’ve got to have the things you need to go out and execute and embrace all the challenges out there.”
A win tomorrow would make her the fourth player to win wire-to-wire with no ties, and the first since Karrie Webb in 2000. Tavatanakit could become the first rookie to win the major championship since Juli Inkster in 1984 and the fourth consecutive player to win the ANA as her first major title. But after an exhausting day, she isn’t trying to overthink anything before Sunday’s final round.
Ewing will join Tavatanakit in the major’s final grouping after carding a third-round 66, her career-low round at the ANA Inspiration. The 28-year-old went bogey-free, recording six birdies, including three consecutive to start off her round on Nos. 1-3, just like Tavatanakit. Lee, who also sits at nine-under alongside Ewing, said she’s been working on being more comfortable in her swing and was proud of her effort at Mission Hills Country Club.
“It just tough today. Weather is little hotter than yesterday and then course was difficult today. It's windy and then little firmer than yesterday. So, yeah, but I made good score today,” said Lee, who with a win would become just the second player to successfully defend at the ANA Inspiration, joining Annika Sorenstam (2001, 2002).
Tavatanakit’s playing partner on Saturday, major champion Shanshan Feng, shot even par on the day and sits in solo fourth at -8. Feng carded a lone birdie on No. 2, but bogeyed No. 13 to stay in contention.
“I think overall I did okay. I mean, I hit the balls very well. Only thing I was missing a little bit was my putting today. I was just struggling with the speed a little bit. But other than that, I think it was perfect,” said Feng.
“I'm mentally very fresh, but I would say that I am a little more tired than the beginning of the week. But I'm very happy that I got three down and just one more to go. I think I still have enough energy for that.”
2013 ANA Inspiration champion Inbee Park and Charley Hull are in fifth at seven-under, with Gaby Lopez, Lydia Ko, Jin Young Ko and Moriya Jutanugarn rounding out the top-10 in a tie for seventh at six-under.