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Green holds on to 1-shot lead at Hazeltine

Published: Sun, June 23, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press


Hannah Green made it through her first taste of the big stage on the LPGA Tour by holding a lead on the weekend at a major championship and playing alongside powerful Ariya Jutanugarn, a two-time major champion and former No. 1 in the world.

She made it through just fine. She only wishes the one-shot lead could have been a little bigger.

Green matched pars and birdies with Jutanugarn for seven straight holes and was on the verge of building a four-shot lead when she stood over a 6-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole. She missed the putt, and two holes later she walked off Hazeltine National with a 2-under 70 and a one-shot lead in the KPGA Women’s PGA Championship.

Jutanugarn birdied the 17th and Green three-putted from long range on the 18th for a bogey.

“Pretty disappointing to end with a three-putt. That’s my first one all week,” Green said. “Even the putt on 16, that could have been a big two-shot swing, as well. Overall, I think I have to be really happy playing with Ariya for the first time and trying to keep up with her. You want to hit it as hard and far as she does.”

Jutanugarn had six birdies in her round of 68, which was slowed by a bogey from the water on the 16th when she tried to drive the green from a forward tee.

But she had no worries.

She loved playing with the 22-year-old Australian, and she felt good about her chances, mainly because she wasn’t thinking about them at all. Jutanugarn, who swept all the big awards last year on the LPGA Tour, has yet to win this year and has shown no sense of urgency.

“I’m really happy about how I play last three days because like I feel so free,” she said. “I’m not thinking about outcome. I feel I have my own game. I just go out and want to feel free. I want to have good commitment, fight and I keep doing that until last hole and I did every shot I can today.”

Green was at 9-under 207 for her first 54-hole lead in an LPGA Tour event.

For so much of the third round, it felt like match play because no one else was within five shots of the lead. It might have looked like a mismatch. Green, a three-time winner on the Symetra Tour in 2017, is in her second full year on the LPGA Tour. Jutanugarn, a 23-year-old Thai and among the most powerful players in the game, already has 10 victories and two majors.

Green practically matched her shot-for-shot, making a slick, downhill birdie putt on the par-3 fourth when the Thai was in tight, making a 40-foot birdie putt on the next hole and matching birdies on the par-5 seventh — Jutanugarn with a 5-iron to the back collar for a two-putt, Green by laying up and making a 10-foot putt.

“I can’t put any pressure on her. She make every putt,” Jutanugarn said with a broad smile. “I made birdie, she made birdie. I hit closer, she made longer putt and I missed the short putt. So much fun. Really enjoyed the way she played. I love how she played golf.”

Now they might have company for the final round.

Lizette Salas (68) and Nelly Korda (69) were four shots behind at 5-under 211.

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