PHOENIX – Angela Stanford plays for keeps no matter the stakes.
“I play with the guys at Shady Oaks in the 1 o’clock and I’m out there trying to beat them – and they’re out there to enjoy the weekend,” the 33-year-old Texan said Saturday after opening a three-stroke lead in the play-for-free LPGA Founders Cup.
“It always matters to me.”
Instead of paying the players, the tournament honoring the 13 tour founders is donating $1 million to charity – half to The LPGA Foundation and its LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program and half to the top 10 finishers’ designated charities.
Stanford is playing for her own foundation.
“I don’t care if it’s for money,” she said. “I don’t care if it’s for money for my charity or for the LPGA Foundation. I don’t care what’s it’s for. If you tell me it’s official and I have a chance to compete to win something, I’m going to show up.”
Her foundation provides scholarships for children from families affected by cancer. The winner will receive $200,000 to donate.
“It would do wonders for my foundation,” said Stanford, a four-time winner in 10 full seasons on the tour. “We could help a lot of kids a lot faster than I thought we would. There’s a lot on the line in that respect.”
She shot her second straight 6-under 66, playing in the morning before the wind picked up a bit on the partly cloudy, 80-degree day at Desert Ridge.
“Surprised, to be perfectly honest,” Stanford said about her low score. “I didn’t feel quite right this morning. I had kind of a weird warmup session.”
Long-hitting Brittany Lincicome was second. She followed her opening 67 with a 68, holing an 8-foot par putt on No. 18 just before dark.
“I just putted lights out,” said Lincicome, Stanford’s U.S. Solheim Cup teammate. “My driver let me down today, but my putter saved me.”
The three-time tour winner was frustrated by the pace of play in the round that took about 5 1/2 hours to finish.
“I’ve never waited that much in my life,” she said. “We waited about 20 minutes on every tee shot.”
Mindy Kim was third at 8 under after a 67. She birdied the first five holes.
Cristie Kerr, also a U.S. Solheim Cup player, was another stroke back after a 68. She rallied to beat Stanford twice in 2006, overcoming a four-stroke deficit in the final round in Tennessee and an eight-stroke margin in the Canadian Women’s Open.
“Anything can happen on Sunday,” Kerr said. “It’s a different feel when you’re playing in the last group, especially with the lead, because you tighten up and try to protect it. And I can stick with my game plan. It depends on the pins and the conditions tomorrow, but sure anything five and in is doable.”
In 2006 at London Hunt in Ontario, Kerr closed with a 7-under 65, while Stanford bogeyed the final two holes – three-putting the last – for a 74. Stanford began that round with a four-stroke lead over Meena Lee.
“I learned a lot in those two losses. People say you learn more in a loss than a victory,” Stanford said. “Not that I played scared, but if there was pin tucked left, the first day you’re probably going at it. Well, if you have a five-, six- or seven-shot lead on the final day, you may go at the middle of the green. For me, I learned that when I did that, it wasn’t very successful.
“I learned that I have to keep hitting golf shots. You can’t just say, `I’m going to go out and make 18 pars and hope I win.’ I think I was still maturing as a player at the time and I didn’t know what it took to win.”
While many players struggled to adjust for their approach shots releasing on the firm greens, Stanford is right at home on the sun-baked layout. She grew up near Fort Worth, played at TCU and still lives in the area.
“Fortunately for me, I’ve always played release,” Stanford said. “I’m not one that spins the ball a whole lot. So, it doesn’t bother me if it releases 5 or 25 feet. I think for me that’s good because I expect it already. … I’ve seen it my whole life.”
Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, the winner three weeks ago in Singapore, shot a 67 in the afternoon to match Seon Hwa Lee (69) and Mina Harigae (70) at 6 under. Webb won the last Phoenix event in 2009 at Papago and also won in 1999 at Moon Valley.
Top-ranked Yani Tseng, the winner of the season-opening LPGA Thailand and three other worldwide events this year, had her second straight 73 to make the cut by a stroke at 2 over. No. 2 Jiyai Shin was 2 under after a 70.