Top seed Lilia Vu falls to Albane Valenzuela; Anna Norqvist goes the distance again
NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Anna Nordqvist was among 11 players who won matches for the second straight day, only the three-time major champion from Sweden had to work the longest at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play.
Nordqvist had her second match go all 18 holes Thursday before she held on for a 1-up victory over Lauren Coughlin. Nordqvist never trailed, but she watched a 4-up lead after eight holes shrink to 1 up after the 13th.
They halved the last five holes, leaving Nordqvist in good position — but still not safe — to win her group and advance to the knockout stage on the weekend at Shadow Creek.
The second day of round-robin group play was all about staying alive, and 16 players from the field of 64 already are mathematically eliminated. Xiyu “Janet” Lin was the only top seed in her group to get eliminated, losing another match, this time to Pajaree Anannarukarn.
The tournament attracted only two of the top 10 players in the women’s world ranking, and both suffered setbacks in the second round.
Albane Valenzuela, a runner-up in the U.S. Women’s Amateur four years ago, won four holes in a five-hole stretch around the turn to knock off Lilia Vu, the top seed and winner of the LPGA’s first major this year at the Chevron Championship.
Valenzuela (2-0) faces Lauren Hartlage on Friday for a chance to advance. Hartlage is the lowest-ranked player in the tournament who has lost both matches before they reached the 17th hole.
“Very happy to walk away with a win,” Valenzuela said. “I knew this was going to be a very tough match. Lilia is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world and made me work for the points. She definitely left some putts out there, and I did as well, so we kind of fought ’til the end.”
Brooke Henderson won three straight holes to build a 1-up lead at the turn, only for the Canadian to make five bogeys the rest of the way and lose to Sophia Schubert. Henderson had an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th to halve the match, and the putt missed right of the hole by several inches.
The top player from each of the 16 groups advance to the weekend.
Maja Stark of Sweden built a big lead for the second straight match and then had to hang on to beat Yu Liu to raise her record to 2-0. Another young Swedish star, Linn Grant, went 18 holes for the second straight day. She halved her match on Wednesday, and then had a wild match against Matilda Castren.
Match scoring from the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play
Grant was 3 down after four holes. She rallied to win three straight holes before the turn. None of the final six holes was halved, and Grant did enough to win, 2 up.
“I just had a mindset that it is a tough golf course, so anything can happen on any hole,” Grant said. “You just have to keep hitting fairways and trying to hit those greens. A lot of times you win a hole on par because it is tough.”
Angel Yin pulled off an unlikely win. She was 1 down to Esther Henseleit of Germany playing the par-3 17th. Yin hit over the green on a rough-filled bank, about 10 feet beyond the putting surface. Henseleit had 12 feet for birdie. Yin used her putter to punch the ball along the thick grass, onto the green to about 5 feet. Henseleit missed her birdie and Yin stayed in the match.
On the 18th, Yin hammered a drive along the firm fairway and hit a wedge to 10 feet, making the birdie putt to earn a tie. She will play Ally Ewing, who has won two matches without having to play the 17th hole either day.