Baena Goes Low to Tie for Lead
Jones, who was born in California and lives in Atlanta, is looking to become the first American to win on the LPGA Tour in 2001.
'I am going to take it. I am going to take it for U.S.A.,' said Jones, who turned in a 2-under 68 at the par-70 Onion Creek Club. 'I am going to get it over with.'
But first Jones will have to contend with Baena and two other international players, Korea's Mi Hyun Kim and Canadian Lorie Kane. Kim, a three-time winner on the tour, posted a 64 of her own for solo third place at 8-under, while Kane, who captured her fourth LPGA title at the Takefuji Classic in February, finished the day alone in fourth with her second straight 68.
Baena, who joined the LPGA Tour in 1999 after an impressive amateur career that included a runner-up finish in the 1996 U.S. Amateur Championship, kicked off a sizzling front nine Saturday with a seven-wood to four feet for a birdie at the 1st.
After rolling in a 15-foot birdie at the 3rd hole, Baena wedged her third shot at the par-5 7th to within two feet to climb to 3-under on the day.
She holed out a bunker shot for a birdie at the 8th, then made it three in a row with a 15-foot birdie putt just before the turn. The 23-year-old Baena sank a four-foot birdie at 16 for her lone birdie against eight pars on the homeward nine.
'I dont think I have played better golf in my life,' said Baena, who credited her new coach with her improved swing. 'It seems like it is just much better consistency through my clubs.'
Baena, who played collegiately at the University of Arizona, has notched five top-10 finishes in three seasons, with the most recent a fourth-place showing at the Memorial of Naples event in January. She is still in search of her first victory.
'I am hitting so solid right now that I feel very confident that I am going to go tomorrow and hit good,' she said. 'I really feel that you need to be smart out there. Think where you want to hit it and be on the green and just hope you make your putt.'
Jones, a 10-time winner seeking her first victory since the 1999 Firstar LPGA Classic, came into round three with a two-shot lead but was shaky at the start with bogeys after missed greens at the 4th and 6th holes. She gave herself a pep talk after she missed the green at seven and saved par.
'I was still trying to settle down and just kind of get off that bumpy roller coaster that I was on,' Jones said. 'I was just trying to get where I had a couple of easy pars and then settle in a little bit.'
After racking up four more pars from the 8th to the 11th, Jones started heading in the right direction with a 12-footer for birdie at the 12th. She added birdies from 25 and 15 feet at the 13th and 14th, then made it to 2-under on the day after a 9-iron to three feet at 16.
Kim, whose best finish of the season was second after losing to Annika Sorenstam in a playoff at The Office Depot two weeks ago, closed out her bogey-free round with birdies at 16 and 17.
Kane, currently two back at 7-under, birdied four of the first five holes Saturday to move atop the leaderboard at 9-under par. However, a tee shot behind a tree led to a bogey at the seventh and she dropped another shot on 13 when she missed a four-foot par putt.
'I would like to be in the last group tomorrow, but I am also happy where I am. I don't mind chasing,' said Kane, who has won three of her four titles in come-from-behind fashion. 'I like putting some numbers on the board and having them watched.'
Dottie Pepper also has a chance to help the American cause on Sunday. The 17-time LPGA champion jumped into fifth place at 5-under 205 on the strength of a 68 comprised of three birdies and one bogey.
Se Ri Pak, the winner of last week's Longs Drugs Challenge in California, was forced to withdraw Saturday due to a neck injury.
Full-field scores from the Kathy Ireland Championship
Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change
Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.
David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.
“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.
Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.
“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”
Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.
The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.
Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.
Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:
1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.
2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.
While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”
PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes
The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:
The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.
We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.
Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open
JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.
The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.
Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.
''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''
Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 5: Dec. 12
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18