Anna Nordqvist shot a 9-under 62 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead over Sei Young Kim into the final round of the LPGA Tour’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
Tied for the first-round lead after a 64, Nordqvist hit all 18 greens in regulation at Pinnacle Country Club in her second straight bogey-free round.
“I played really solid both today and yesterday,” Nordqvist said. “Got off to a great start. Had a lot of good opportunities. Made a few putts early and just kept going. Felt like I hit my irons really well.”
The 33-year-old Swede birdied five of the first six holes and seven of the first 11 in the round interrupted by an afternoon thunderstorm. She added two more on the par-3 15th and par-5 18th to get to 16-under 126.
WATCH | Nordqvist tames Pinnacle Country Club:
“There is something about Arkansas.” Nordqvist said. “Always liked this place. Probably one of the few places in the U.S. I could really see myself being because I like the atmosphere here.”
Nordqvist has two major titles and six other LPGA Tour victories. She last won in 2017 at the Founders Cup in Phoenix and the major Evian Championship in France.
“There is obviously low scores out here, so you got to keep going,” Nordqvist said. “It’s just so competitive out here. In order to win out here you really have to be on top of your game. So feel good so far, but I’m going to have to post a low one tomorrow, too.”
Kim following an opening 65 with a 64. She eagled the 18th and closed with a birdie on the par-4 ninth. Playing alongside local favourite Stacy Lewis, Kim was making the turn when the storm hit.
“Greens were softer, but the wind is stronger than front nine, so it wasn’t easy,” said Kim, making her first LPGA Tour start since January.
The South Korean player skipped the Women’s British Open last week. She’s set to play the ANA Inspiration in two weeks in the California desert.
Lewis, the former University of Arkansas player who won the 2014 event, was 8 under after a 68. She made herself at home during the short storm delay.
“We were right on 18 making the turn when it started getting pretty dark,” Lewis said. “My housing is right off the first tee, so I just went over there and hung out. We knew it was going to be pretty quick and it’s hot enough that a little hour break doesn’t really affect you too much.”
She won the Ladies Scottish Open two weeks ago for her 13th LPGA Tour title and first since the birth of daughter Chesnee in October 2018.
Nelly Korda (63), Jenny Shin (63) and Austin Ernst (65) were 12 under. Angela Stanford (66) was 10 under.
“You have to shoot a really low number out here to even be in contention, and so you have to be very aggressive,” Korda said after a birdie-birdie-eagle finish. “Going to take it as low as I can. It’s going to take a low one to win tomorrow.”
Shin birdied five of the last seven, and Ernst birdied 17 and eagled 18.
Canadians not in contention
Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., was tied for 28th at 5 under. Fellow Canadians Alena Sharp of Hamilton and Jaclyn Lee of Calgary failed to make the cut.
Esther Lee, tied for the first-round lead with Nordqvist and Jackie Stoelting, was in the group at 9 under after a 69. Stoelting, returning to the tour after a 14-month maternity break, shot 70.
Alexa Pano, the 16-year-old Florida amateur playing on a sponsor exemption, made the cut. She followed an opening 72 with a 67 to get to 3 under.