MOBILE, Ala. — Anna Nordqvist was putting like a rookie again — and that’s a good thing.
The Swede said she had perhaps her first “really good putting day” since her rookie year in 2009 with a course-record 61 on Saturday in the third round of the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic.
South Korea’s Chella Choi shot her second straight 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead over Jessica Korda and Nordqvist, who is seeking her first win since capturing the LPGA Championship and season-ending LPGA Tour Championship as a rookie.
“I just felt like I tried to trust myself and trust my line and just hit it,” Nordqvist said. “Usually, I’m very close to making a lot of putts but it’s just the difference of making them. It just felt like sometimes I couldn’t miss.”
Choi twice made three straight birdies to move to 17 under, and has made only two bogeys in three rounds on The Crossings course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Magnolia Grove complex. Her best finish in four-plus years on the tour is a tie for second in the Manulife tournament in Canada last March.
Choi, who had three top-five finishes last year, said she started checking out the leaderboard “every hole” at the start of the tournament and feels mentally stronger now in her bid to finally get a win.
“I know my shot and my putting,” she said. “I think just my mental and my experience and just confidence … so I think I can do it. Hopefully.”
Nordqvist broke the course record of 62 set by Sydnee Michaels on Friday. Korda, the second-round leader, shot a 69. The American had a bogey on No. 11 when the ball landed in a divot and she tweaked her right wrist, and a double bogey on No. 12.
She rebounded with a 33-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole.
“It was left to right and it was pretty,” Korda said, laughing.
That was set up by what she said was a 325-foot drive sparked by the mentality that: “Oh, I haven’t hit the green in two almost all day, I need to go for it.”
Nordqvist had a run of five birdies starting on the third hole and added a 10-foot eagle putt on the par-5 13th hole. Nordqvist, who did have one bogey, holed a par-saving bunker shot from some 10 yards on 12.
“Today was a lot of fun,” she said. “I started out with a couple birdies, hit a lot of good shots, and I think I missed one green. And then I made that bunker shot and it was just like, I couldn’t stop smiling, couldn’t stop laughing.”
Win drought aside, the former Arizona State player thinks her game has improved substantially since making the splash as a rookie because she’s more consistent.
“It’s fun being in contention and having people watch,” she said. “That’s what you work hard for. It’s a lot more fun playing up there than playing for 50th or 60th, so it’s a good place to be.”
Defending champion Stacy Lewis was four strokes back with a 63 after opening the day in 35th. She won both Alabama tournaments last year.
Lewis had a string of four straight birdies from Nos. 5-8 to start a stretch of eight in 10 holes.
Gone were the mistakes of the previous two days when she had a double bogey and two bogeys each round for 70s.
“It was one of those stress-free days,” Lewis said. “I needed something like that to get back into the tournament.”
Webb and Korda will play together for the fourth straight round. Webb had her first bogey since early Thursday but already had three birdies in the first six holes.
“I got off to really quite a nice start,” the 38-year-old Australian said. “I was cruising along and then threw a three-putt in there on No. 7 and sort of lost a bit of my momentum there and didn’t really get it going again. I had a lot of in-between numbers today and just wasn’t guessing right.”
The course’s low round entering the week was 64 by Danielle Downey in 2008 and Webb and Sjodin in 2011. In fact, Lewis’s low round in last year’s win was 67.
That might not cut it on a weekend when Webb pointed out, “I nearly got lapped at 69.”
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