Day, Ko shine, Lexi makes ace at Grant Thornton

Day, Ko shine, Lexi makes ace at Grant Thornton
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NAPLES, Fla. — Jason Day and Lydia Ko shot 31 on the back nine in the tougher foursomes format Saturday, giving them a 6-under 66 for a two-shot lead in the Grant Thornton Invitational, the first mixed-team event since 1999.

More than posting five birdies on the back nine at Tiburon, Day and Ko managed to avoid mistakes that held so many other teams back.

They were at 20-under 144, two clear of Lucas Glover and Leona Maguire (69) and Tony Finau and Nelly Korda (70).

“I think the biggest thing in foursomes is to keep the ball in play,” Day said. “My personal goal was to just get it down the fairway, keep it in play. … Lydia, she’s been a solid rock for the team.”

Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson put together a dynamic back nine of their own, highlighted by Thompson making a hole-in-one on the par-3 16th hole, the ball taking one hop and disappearing into the hole.

But they also had bogeys on two of the par 5s. Four birdies and Thompson’s ace gave them a 31 on the back for a 68, leaving them four shots behind with the Canadian team of Corey Conners and Brooke Henderson (69) and Nick Taylor and Angel Yin (70).

Sahith Theegala and Rose Zhang were tied with the Finau-Korda team until Zhang pulled her drive on the 11th hole, the ball bouncing off the cart path and into the hazard for a one-shot penalty. Finau missed a 10-foot putt and they made double bogey and never quite recovered. They didn’t make another birdie, took another double bogey on No. 15 and shot 74, leaving them eight shots behind.

Finau and Korda also fell back. They were in the lead most of the day. But on the par-5 14th, Finau flubbed a tough chip well below the green, Korda’s pitch ran 8 feet by and they took a bogey. On the final hole, Korda missed the green into a bunker and then failed to convert on a 6-foot par putt to fall two behind.

Day and Ko birdied four of their last six holes, including both par 5s and a short birdie on the 16th that gave up low scoring with a front right pin.

Thompson had 158 yards and went two clubs down to a 7-iron, moving back on the tee and taking a little off the club into the breeze. Whatever the math, it was a perfect calculation and a good swing, and it added to an ace.

“An amazing experience,” Thompson said.

The mixed teams — one PGA Tour, one from the LPGA — is the first such event since the JC Penney Classic in 1999.

The final round is modified fourballs, new to the event. Both players hit tee shots, and they switch golf balls for the second shot and each play the ball until conclusion.

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