With 18 holes remaining to play, Lucy Li is looking to add another accolade to her young resume at the Dana Open presented by Marathon. Li battled on a hot and humid day at Sylvania to maintain her Friday lead, after her second-lap 64 with a Saturday 67 to sit a shot ahead of the field at -14. Her 199 is her first 36-hole Tour score below 200, beating her previous record set at the 2022 Honda LPGA Thailand where she finished T12.
The American, who picked up two pro victories on the Epson Tour in 2022, said she battled some nerves on the first tee, getting off to a rocky start with bogeys on numbers 1 and 7. Instead of faltering , Li rebounded with a birdie. on #8 and continued to pick up speed after the turn.
“Birdieing 10 was a good one. And then I think the birdie at 14, par 3, was huge because I just missed a little putt the hole before, and so I was a little upset about that. It was nice to have one there. A slightly longer putt. I kind of caught the front putt,” Li said. “So it was just good to keep the momentum going.”
Li then birdied on two of his final three holes, numbers 16 and 17, before leaving the final green at Highland Meadows Golf Club with the clubhouse header. Although she has already secured her LPGA Tour card for 2023 in the Epson Tour top 10, Li could accept immediate membership with a victory on Sunday and become the ninth first Rolex winner of the season. The 19-year-old would also be the second under-20 winner this season, after 2022 rookie Atthaya Thitikul when she won the JTBC Classic presented by Barbasol, and is currently sitting in a place she didn’t expect. to be. soon in her professional golf career.
“It was kind of a whirlwind of a few months. I definitely didn’t expect to be here a few months ago, so I’m really grateful to be here and to have this opportunity,” Li said. “Whatever happens tomorrow will happen.”
Behind Li are LPGA Tour winners Caroline Masson and Lexi Thompson, tied for second at -13 after both players were carded at 6 and under 65. Masson went bogey-free for the second day in a row, birding three on his first nine holes and three on the 16th, 17th and 18th. A win on Sunday would be six years to the day since his last Tour win at the 2016 Manulife Classic.
Thompson’s round was marked by an eagle at No. 9 and three birdies at 15, 16 and 17 that put her in Sunday’s final group alongside young Li, who broke Thompson’s record at the 2014 US Women’s Open presented by ProMedica becoming the youngest qualifier. in major league history.
“I played with her a bit. Not so much here, but I think everyone knows what an amazing player she is. I think she broke all the records,” Thompson said. wonders for the amount of work she put into her game, just the amount of talent she has. So I’m really looking forward to playing with her tomorrow, and hopefully there will be a lot of birdies to do.
Seven players are tied for fourth at -11, including defending champion Nasa Hataoka and 2019 Dana Open winner Sei Young Kim, who had a near albatross that led to an easy eagle putt on the No. 18. and it was miss it left bunker so i got lucky. And then from the second shot at the flag, there are 200 yards, and if I hit over the flag, there is no chance of birdie, so I had to throw the front edge. I hit the solid, pitch front edge and it was almost done,” Kim said. “I am very happy to do this. I’ve never had an albatross in my life so it was close.
Lydia Ko is also part of this star group. The first number 10 in the morning wave, Ko’s 64 put her in prime position just three strokes behind Li to earn her potentially 18th career LPGA Tour win. “Every day is a new day. You never know what’s going to happen,” Ko said. “I just have to focus on my game and have fun out there and see what happens after tomorrow ends. .”