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Patty Tavatanakit, a 21-year-old golfer from UCLA, threatening to run away with ANA Inspiration title


RANCHO MIRAGE, California — At instances Saturday, it was as if Patty Tavatanakit was taking part in a totally different event than the remainder of the sphere on the ANA Inspiration.

Tavatanakit jumped out to a huge lead with three birdies in her first three holes on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club, then labored her large drives and her scorching putter into a third-round 5-under 67.

While it wasn’t even the bottom spherical of the day, the efficiency felt like Tavatanakit was blowing away the sphere like the nice and cozy desert breeze that blew throughout the course within the afternoon. She prolonged her 36-hole lead from one shot to 5 pictures getting into Sunday’s remaining spherical.

“If I am going to pull it out, it is going to be tough,” stated the 21-year-old Tavatanakit from Thailand.

Patty Tavatanakit putts on the first inexperienced in the course of the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Saturday, April 3, 2021.

It’s doable that the situations down the stretch made Tavatanakit assume that Sunday is perhaps a troublesome remaining spherical. With temperatures reaching 100 levels within the desert and the prevailing winds beginning to blow more durable, Tavatanakit made two bogeys and two birdies in her remaining seven holes and barely missed spinning her third shot on the par-5 18th gap into the lake in entrance of the island inexperienced.

But as a drained Tavatanakit completed the spherical, she knew she had performed effectively and put the remainder of the sphere behind her. And the participant who has been chasing Tavatanakit all week continued to be impressed with the younger budding star.

“She’s an amazing player,” China’s Shanshan Feng stated after ending 18 holes with Tavatanakit with an even-par 72 to drop into a tie for fourth. “I actually learned a lot from her.”

Feng stated Tavatanakit is an instance of the brand new technology of gamers on the LPGA, able to not solely hitting 300-yard drives however having a deft quick sport as effectively.

Feng will start the ultimate spherical of the foremost championship one shot behind American Ally Ewing and defending ANA Inspiration champion Mirim Lee from South Korea. As she did final yr, Lee has quietly stayed on the chief board with constant play, capturing 69 Saturday for her 9-under whole. Ewing fired the spherical of the day, a 6-under 66.

Inbee Park, struggling uncharacteristically on the greens, and Charley Hull are tied for fifth at 7-under going into the ultimate 18 holes Sunday.

Still technically a rookie on the LPGA after the truncated 2020 season when she debuted on the tour, Tavatanakit is doing greater than padding her lead within the rookie of the yr race with her performances this week. She’s on the lookout for her first LPGA victory and searching to change into simply the second UCLA Bruin to win a main on the LPGA, becoming a member of Mo Martin.

Her 14-under 202 rating ties the event report for 54-hole scoring set by Pernilla Lindberg in 2018. Like Lindberg, who went on to win in a playoff over Park in 2018, Tavatanakit has now held the lead on the finish of all three rounds. And she has a probability to attain 19-under, the 72-hole scoring report for the occasion set in 1999 by Dottie Pepper.

Tavatanakit began the day at 9-under with a one-shot lead over Feng. But with a attribute highly effective drive 33 yards previous Feng and simply 88 yards to the entrance fringe of the inexperienced on the 385-yard first gap, the chief arrange a gap birdie. She simply reached the par-5 second gap with an iron for a two-putt birdie, then rolled in a 15-foot birdie on the third gap to attain 12-under and stretch her lead to three pictures.

“It’s always nice to have a good start,” Tavatanakit stated. “It makes you feel a little bit more comfortable throughout the day.

After that, it was a matter of who could make a run at the Thai star as she continued to make birdies. Tavatanakit birdied the ninth hole for a 32 on the front nine, then added birdies on the 11th, 13th and 15th holes.

Mirim Lee hits onto the 11th green during round three of the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on April 3, 2021.
Other players like Feng and Park reached 9-under for the day at some point in their rounds, but Ewing’s 66 was the big move of the day. Lee, the defending champion, put together a string of three consecutive birdies on the back nine for her 68 to make a late move to tie Ewing at 9-under.

While Tavatankit thinks about playing the same way she has played the first three days in chasing her inaugural win on the tour, Feng, a 10-year veteran who didn’t play on the LPGA last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said she would also just go about her day trying to be happy and playing well.

“I can enjoy the whole process again, enjoy the four or five hours on the course,” Feng stated. “My goal this week was just to make the cut and shoot maybe red numbers. I’ve done pretty well so far.”

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