Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen seized a three-stroke lead after Saturday’s third round of the JTBC Classic after South Korea’s An Na-rin closed with a triple-bogey disaster.
The 27-year-old Dane, who won her first LPGA Tour title two weeks ago in Thailand in her 93rd career start, fired a three-under-par 69 to stand on 14-under 202 after 54 holes at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California.
Back-to-back titles would bring a huge confidence boost if she can manage the feat, Madsen said.
“That would be really cool. It will tell me that I belong here, I belong in the winner’s circle. It wasn’t just one time. So it will give me a lot mentally.”
An was second on 205 after also shooting 69 but she had shared the lead with Madsen until the final hole after a back-nine battle for the lead.
Madsen was the first Danish player to capture an LPGA crown when she eagled the second playoff hole to beat China’s Xiyu Lin for the Honda LPGA Thailand title on 13 March.
“I do think it’ll be easier going into tomorrow with a lead than it was in Thailand, but going in with a lead you still want to win, so you still have all excitement in your body that you’ve got to control,” Madsen said.
Madsen birdied the par-three 3rd, par-five 5th and par-three 6th holes, but followed with a bogey at seven and a double-bogey at the par-five 8th.
That opened the door for An to grab the lead with a birdie at the 9th, her fourth birdie of the front side.
Madsen rallied with birdies at the 9th and par-five 10th to reclaim the lead and a bogey by An at the 12th hole gave Madsen a two-stroke edge.
“It does tell me that I’ve come a long way,” Madsen said after her fightback. “Normally I would’ve freaked out after eight. I was not happy with my double-bogey, but I knew there were a lot of chances out there on the back nine as well.
“So I just got to continue doing what I was doing. I was still hitting good shots. I just made two bad shots, and that’s what happens.”
An eagled the par-four 16th to grab a share of the lead. Madsen missed a 15-foot eagle putt at 16 but tapped in for birdie, only to have An match her at the top again with a birdie at the par-five 17th.
While Madsen was parring 17, An was melting down at the par-four 18th. She missed the fairway, then bounced her second shot off a left-side cart path, the ball wedging against the root of a bush.
After taking a penalty, An’s drop left her just off the path with a bush blocking her backswing. She smacked the ball off the curb of the path and hit a golf cart only a few yards up the concrete.
An punched her fifth shot onto the green, then two-putted for triple-bogey while Madsen, who endured a long delay, made a routine par to finish ahead by three.
“I only made the mistakes on seven and eight, but bounced back really quickly from that, so pretty solid round,” Madsen said.
Sharing third on 206 were Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn, Canadian Maude-Aimee Leblanc and world No 1 Ko Jin-young of South Korea.
Ko, the 18-hole leader after an opening 65, fired a 70 for her 33rd consecutive under-par LPGA round.
© Agence France-Presse