Anna Nordqvist shoots 11 under 61, takes Founders Cup lead

Anna Nordqvist
Anna Nordqvist (Steve Dykes/ Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Anna Nordqvist was right at home on another hot, low-scoring day in the Valley of the Sun.

The former Arizona State player shot a tournament-record 11-under 61 on Saturday to take a two-stroke lead over Stacy Lewis and Ariya Jutanugarn into the final round of the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“They always say that home is where the heart is, and my heart is definitely still here,” Nordqvist said. “I always say I’m a West Coast girl and people remind me I’m from Sweden. But even though I live in Florida now, this definitely feels like home.”

Playing in record 95-degree heat at Desert Ridge, Nordqvist broke the tournament 54-hole record of 19 under set by Ai Miyazato in 2013.

Lewis and Jutanugarn each shot 66 in their third straight round together – after they played alongside Nordqvist the first two days. Lewis and Jutanugarn have had identical scores each day, with Jutanugarn getting the spot in the final twosome with Nordqvist on Sunday because she was listed first on the tee sheet Thursday.

“We both played great the last three days and kind of fed off each other,” Lewis said. “We were able to kind of club off each other on par 3s and things like that.”

Nordqvist needed to hole her second shot on the par-4 18th to shoot 59, but hit left of the pin and went through the green to the edge of the grandstand.

“Sat on a pretty good sidehill and I had a 7-iron in, so came off a little bit more left than I expected, but long is not going to be bad spot, especially with the grandstand there,” Nordqvist said.

Her putt from the fringe slid by to the left.

“Thought I had it,” Nordqvist said. “But it’s not the end of day, I still shot 61.”

The 6-foot Swede played the first 12 holes in 8 under, capping the run with an eagle on the par-5 12th. She added birdies on the par-3 14th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Nordqvist successfully defended her ShopRite LPGA Classic title last season for her sixth LPGA Tour victory. She nearly won the U.S. Women’s Open for her second major, but lost a three-hole playoff to Brittany Lang after being penalized two strokes for touching the sand with her club in a fairway bunker on the second extra hole.

The 61 matched her career best set in the 2013 Mobile Bay LPGA Classic.

“I feel like I enjoyed it a little bit more today than I did that time,” Nordqvist said. “I’m in a better place.”

Lewis is winless in 66 events since June 2014 and has slipped to 14th in the world. She won at Desert Ridge in 2013 to reach No. 1, was second in 2014 and 2015 and tied for fourth last year.

“With the way this golf course is playing, two back is not a big deal,” Lewis said.

She bogeyed the par-4 14th after a short putt horseshoed out, then rebounded with birdies on 16 and 18.

“It wasn’t great, but it was good,” Lewis said. “Definitely would’ve liked to have birdied those couple par 5s on the back nine. Felt like I didn’t play those very well. But making those two birdies coming in was huge.

Jutanugarn was bogey-free for the third straight day. The second-ranked Thai star won five LPGA Tour titles last year and topped the player of the year points race and money list.

“I just really like the course,” Jutanugarn said. “The course not that easy. Some hole pretty challenging for me.”

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., shot a 69 and is 11 under.

So Yeon Ryu had a 64 to get to 18 under, and In Gee Chun (66) and Angel Yin (65) were 17 under.

Top-ranked Lydia Ko had a 63 to join Inbee Park (67) Nelly Korda (64) and Vicky Hurst (68) at 16 under. Ko birdied the final six holes, closing with a 15-footer on the par-4 18th

“I just gave myself a lot of good opportunities,” Ko said. “I don’t know if I’ve had that string of birdies in a row before. … I just got to focus on my game tomorrow, and hopefully I have another low one.”

Michelle Wie, a stroke back entering the round, had a 72 to drop into a tie for 24th at 12 under. She’s winless in 62 events since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.