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Henderson Maintains Lead Going into Final Round

3rd Round 68 has Henderson leading by 2-shots over So Yeon Ryu at the Amundi Evian Championship

 

Moving Day at the Amundi Evian Championship saw plenty of reshuffling of the leaderboard amongst the top ten as Nelly Korda, Sei Young Kim, Atthaya Thitikul all dropped down while So Yeon Ryu, Sophia Schubert, and Carlota Ciganda moved up.

Brooke intently watching her tee shot
Canada's Brooke Henderson managed a 68 to keep sole possession of the lead

One spot that did not change was that of leader Brooke Henderson who was able to maintain her position despite a less than stellar day of golf. Her round of 68 (-3 under) was enough to keep her in the lead. Her nearest challengers, Nelly Korda and Sei Young Kim lost ground. Korda’s even par-71 resulted in her falling to 6th spot, 6-shots back of Henderson and while Kim’s 68 matched Henderson’s, a couple of players jumped ahead of her in the chase dropping her into a share of 4th place.


Brooke Henderson, – 17 under (1st place)

Having already won earlier this season, Henderson finds herself in the pole position for Sunday’s final round. A victory would be her second win of the year and her second career major title. Today’s round proved to be Henderson’s most difficult so far, but she managed to grind out a good result today with only one blemish on her scorecard – a bogey on the opening hole which has been playing as the 3rd most difficult hole all week. She recovered with 3-birdies on the front nine to go out in 33 shots, – 2 under. She didn’t drop any strokes on the second nine either while managing a birdie on the par-3, 14th hole to enter the clubhouse with a 35 and a total score of 68 ( – 3 under).

 
Brooke Henderson with her arms fully extended in her swing
The long game - driver and approach shots to the green have long been the strength of Henderson's game. Her work on the putter is paying off as she is the 4th lowest in putts through 3-rounds.
 

“It wasn’t as good as the first two days, but, yeah, really hung in there. Made some clutch par saves on back nine. Not as many birdied on the card. Felt like the course is playing a little bit tougher for me today. Hopefully go out tomorrow and continue to ball strike pretty well and hopefully make some putts.”

Henderson’s ball-striking has been the heart of her game since she first came on tour in 2016. Her driving and approach game has been consistently one of the best on tour. Her ability to get length off the tee box has set up her approach shots, giving her the luxury of being able to play more lofted clubs than the majority of the tour. In turn, she takes advantage of it by hitting greens consistently while giving her looks at birdie and eagle opportunities.

But it is her improvement this week with the flat stick (putter), that has made the difference. As mentioned in yesterday’s story, Henderson has been investing much more time into her putting to improve the weakest part of her game. This week, she has recorded 84-putts through 3-rounds, averaging 28 putts per round. Only 3-players in the top 20 have less putts than Henderson. Perhaps most importantly, it has been Henderson’s clutch putting performance that has been very impressive. Saturday was not her finest round this week, but she minimized the potential damage with several key putts to save par, keeping the big numbers from creeping onto her scorecard.

Solid putting coupled with her top notch long game has elevated Henderson this week from among the contenders to the position of leader. As for Sunday’s final round, Henderson draws on years of experience of having been a regular contender in the hunt on Sundays. Her plan is to know when to be aggressive in attacking pins and when to play it a bit safer to the wide part of the green rather than tempt the big numbers that come with missing greens on the wrong side.

“Yeah, (I’m) just going to play my game and see what happens. This course, like I said, can be really tricky at times. You know, you put yourself in the wrong position, you’re struggling to make par of bogeys. So, just stick to the game plan. Hopefully, get a good strategy together tonight and when I can be aggressive, I’ll definitely try to take advantage of that.”


So Yeon Ryu strikes a beautiful shot down the fairway
Former World No.1 is glad to be back in contention for a major

So Yeon Ryu, – 15 under (2nd place)

Joining Henderson in the final pairing tomorrow is So Yeon Ryu, the Korean veteran of the LPGA – a former world number one ranked player and the winner of two major championships (2011 US Women’s Open and the 2017 ANA Inspiration/Chevron Championship). Like Henderson, So Yeon Ryu is also a past winner of the CP Women’s Canadian Open. Despite her success, she has struggled for much of last season and this one, falling further out of contention than she would have liked and to what many LPGA observers have become accustomed to. Regardless, Sunday’s final round is being welcomed by Ryu and it is one that she relishes.

 
Korean player So Yeon Ryu hitting a beautiful fairway wood shot
"I'm playing quite aggressive . . . if I can make as many putts as I can, I have a good chance to win"
 

“I haven’t played really well and then I haven’t been in contention for, I don’t know, maybe over a year, so I am really excited to be in this position. At the same time, I’m a little bit nervous. But all I can do is focus on what I can do. I’m just going to do some putting work today and then hopefully, I can play well tomorrow as well.”

Heading into tomorrow's round, So Yeon Ryu finds herself trailing Henderson by only a pair of strokes, and she remains confident in her game and what she needs to do to be in position for tomorrow.

“Two shots back is definitely better than three shots back. I’m in a little bit better position. Today my tee shot was much better than first two days. My iron shot has been pretty great – I’m pretty satisfied with that. And then I should say I am pretty much satisfied with all of my game right now. Only thing I can improve a little bit is, I think, the putting.”


A smiling photo of Sophia Schubert
Sophia Schubert - the 2017 US Women's Amateur Champion and Texas Longhorn Alumni

Sophia Schubert, – 13 under (3rd place)

In solo third place is American Sophia Schubert, an alumni of the Texas Longhorns golf team and a past winner of the 2017 United States Women’s Amateur, defeating Albane Valenzuela in the finals. In many respects, win or lose tomorrow, the LPGA rookie has already won in that with a good finish tomorrow, she should move herself up the CME list and the Rolex World Rankings to maintain her card and ensure higher priority for the 2023 season.

Today, she moved up the leaderboard on the strength of her performance, shooting a score of 66 (-5 under) to climb over 6-spots into sole possession of third place. She played really solid golf and despite some adversity on the course, she demonstrated some great resiliency. Her round started with birdies on the 2nd and 4th holes to get her to -2 under for the round when disaster struck. A missed green on the par-3, 5th hole cost her a double bogey. She managed to bounce back, settling herself down with 5-consecutive pars before another birdie on the par-4, 11th hole. Then after a few more pars on holes 12 thru 14, she rattled off 4-straight birdies to finish the back nine in 31 for her -5 under round.

“My ball striking has really helped out here. I’ve worked on it a lot when I’ve been home. Made a few adjustments with my clubs, and I’m just really happy where my game is right now. I mean, I think the key out here is just staying patient and just committing to every shot.”

Sophia Schubert playing a shot from the fairway with her ball below her feet
Schubert's experience of playing on mountainous courses has served her well at Evian

In some ways, Schubert is able to feel quite comfortable playing in this major championship as the Evian Resort Course is similar to the courses she grew up on. “It definitely feels like it (her home course) with the hills and the lakes and the mountains. I’m used to being on a bunch of undulation. I think for me that’s really good, because I’m used to hitting those shots whether it be (ball) above your feet, below your feet. So, you kind of have to know how to adjust. I feel like I’ve been pretty good at that.”

For the rookie Schubert, being in the thick of competition heading into Sunday doesn’t really faze her. Instead, she views it as something expected and not to be overwhelmed by the moment – even if she is chasing down major champions and a former world number one player.

“I mean this is what I’ve worked so hard (for) to be at this point. I’m just trying not to think about it in a way. I get to play with some of the best golfers in the world and I think to myself that I deserve to be here. I’m just trying to keep my confidence up and just keep going.”

Schubert tees off in the penultimate pair with Carlota Ciganda at 12:30 p.m. Sei Young Kim and the current world number one, Jin Young Ko, are in the preceding group at 12:20 p.m. with Henderson and Ryu in the final pair at 12:40 p.m. local time.

 

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