The next step: Solheim hero Piller poised for first win


Eighteen holes is all that stands between Gerina Piller and her first LPGA victory.

Piller will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout in Irving, Texas. It might have been a three-shot lead, but she was unable to birdie the par-5 closing hole at Las Colinas Country Club, finishing with a 4-under 67.

That was one of the few things Piller, 31, was unable to do Saturday. She birdied the other three par-5s. For the second day in a row she hit all 18 greens in regulation. She has missed only two greens in three rounds - both on Thursday. She hasn't made a bogey since her 10th hole of the tournament - a stretch of 45 bogey-free holes.

At 14-under 199, Piller leads South Koreans Amy Yang (65) and Mi Jung Hur (66) by two shots. Jenny Shin (65) and Sei Young Kim (68) are two more shots back.

“I didn’t look at one leaderboard all day and I knew that if I played my game, I know I could make five or six birdies out there,” Piller said. “So I can’t control the outcome.  For example, last week, just because I didn’t win [she tied for third in the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic], I still consider that a winning performance for me.  I felt like I played well, I just wasn’t good enough. 

“There’s always a coulda, shoulda, woulda, but that’s one of those things you’ve just got to go out and hit fairways and hit greens and get it close and make putts.”

Piller has gone winless in 123 career LPGA starts. She has finished second three times - in the 2015 CME Group Tour Championship and the Meijer LPGA Classic and the 2013 CME Group Titleholders.

If she feels pressure on Sunday, she can draw on perhaps the most pressure-packed moment of her career. It came in the 2015 Solheim Cup, where she went 3-0-1. With the Europeans needing only a half-point to retain the cup, Piller chipped out of thick rought to 8 feet, then buried the putt to defeat Caroline Masson, 1 up. If she had missed that putt, the cup would be in European hands today.

Piller will get to sleep on the 54-hole lead for the second time in her career in her own bed - she lives in nearby Plano. She'll have plenty of friends and family in her gallery.

“It would be awesome [to win in front of them], it would be ideal," she said. "But the cool thing about it is no matter how I play tomorrow, I know that they’re going to be proud of me and we’re going to go back and hang out and they’re not going to think anything different of me, so it’s pretty cool to have that support.”