With 18 holes to go at the 2022 Honda LPGA Thailand, Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen heads a tightly packed leaderboard. After a bogey-free 66 on Saturday, Koerstz Madsen reached -21 overall, setting a new tournament 54-hole scoring record. The previous mark was -20, set by Jessica Korda in her 2018 victory. The 195 also sets a new personal best for the two-time Olympian, bettering the 203 she shot twice in her career.
“I’m happy with the round. I didn’t make that many mistakes. Hit a lot of greens,” said Koerstz Madsen, who has two runner-up finishes in her LPGA Tour career. “Would have liked to make a couple more putts or at least get it to the hole, but I’m happy with the round overall.”
This is the second time Koerstz Madsen takes a lead into the final round, joining the 2021 AIG Women’s Open. She was tied for the lead on the final hole but closed with a disappointing double bogey to drop into a tie for fifth. To finally get a win and become the first Danish winner on the LPGA Tour would mean everything.
“It would be amazing winning a first LPGA event,” said Koerstz Madsen, a three-time Epson Tour winner. “That’s what I play for, so that would be just awesome.”
China’s Xiyu Lin and France’s Celine Boutier are tied for second, one stroke behind Koerstz Madsen at -20. Like Koerstz Madsen, Lin is looking for the first win of her LPGA Tour career and could join Shanshan Feng as the only Tour winners from the People’s Republic of China. She carded six birdies on Saturday, including four consecutive on holes 12-15.
“Front nine was pretty average, and then back nine I was just like keep telling myself to be patient, it’s going to come,” said Lin. “It was a good little row, like four birdies in a row, and then also nice to finish with another birdie. So I think I put myself in a really good position for tomorrow.”
The moment is iconic – 11-year-old Lucy Li, hair in pigtails, enjoying a pink ice-cream bar while speaking with the media after the first round of the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. Her red-white-and-blue outfit made its way to the USGA Museum after Li, the youngest player ever to qualify for the championship, shot 78-78 on Pinehurst No. 2.
This week in Thailand is somehow hotter and stickier than it was in North Carolina, but Li is again making her presence known. Now 19 years old, Li is playing in the Honda LPGA Thailand on a sponsor’s exemption, sitting tied for ninth after a third-round 64 that was tied for the low round of the day. Her jump into professional play was unfortunately timed with the COVID-19 pandemic, which wreaked havoc with the lofty plans of so many young players.
“I had a pretty tough golf transition. With the first COVID year I played really good, but I just, it was harder because they were giving out less cards,” said Li, who plays full-time on the Epson Tour. “And then last year I struggled quite a bit. You know, I think there is a transition period for everyone and you just have to be patient; eventually it will work out.”
This is Li’s third appearance in an LPGA Tour event as a professional. She tied for 16th at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open and tied for 13th one week later at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship, both held near her home in the San Francisco area. If Li can take the win on Sunday, she would be eligible to accept immediate LPGA Tour Membership and become a 2022 rookie.
Mexico’s Gaby Lopez, Canadian Brooke Henderson and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka are tied for fourth at -18. Americans Alison Lee and Jennifer Kupcho are tied for seventh at -17, with Australian Minjee Lee and American Lucy Li wrapping up the top 10 at -16.
Play was suspended at 2:27 p.m. due to lightning in the area and resumed at 3:54 p.m. All players finished their rounds.
WITH A WIN
Nanna Koerstz Madsen would become the first LPGA Tour winner from Denmark
Xiyu Lin would become the second LPGA Tour winner from the People’s Republic of China, joining Shanshan Feng
Celine Boutier would earn her third LPGA Tour victory and become the all-time winningest player from France