Compelling storylines abound for Airbus LPGA finale


Michelle Wie gave herself a chance to claim her second LPGA title this year.

Stacy Lewis moved within striking distance of seizing back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

England’s Charley Hull maneuvered for a run at her first LPGA title and winning tour membership.

Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and Scotland’s Catriona Matthew positioned themselves to trump them all Saturday in the third round of the Airbus LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala.

Take your pick of compelling storylines going into the final round at the Magnolia Grove Crossings Course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. 

Wow-Wie once more?

Wie will begin Sunday looking to win her fourth LPGA title, her second this season.

At 16-under 200, Nordqvist (66) is one shot ahead of Matthew (70), two in front of Lewis (66) and three ahead of Wie (66), Hull (71) and Jessica Korda (69).

Wie hit 11 of 14 fairways Saturday and missed just one green in regulation in her bogey-free round. Nobody is hitting more greens in regulation this year than Wie. She leads the LPGA in GIR (78.7 percent).

Wie will tee it up Sunday on a run of 30 consecutive bogey-free holes.

“There are a lot of low scores out there, so I was just trying to keep up with everyone else, making birdies,” Wie told reporters after her round. “Hopefully, I can have another low one tomorrow.

Wie, 24, won the Lotte Championship in April, her first title in four seasons. She’s getting herself in the hunt a lot now. She has recorded top-10 finishes in her last four starts.

A change at the top?

Lewis begins Sunday with a chance to overtake Inbee Park as the Rolex No. 1, and she doesn’t even have to win to do so.

Lewis can regain the No. 1 ranking she lost to Park 58 weeks ago with a Sunday finish of solo third-place or better, but she says it won’t be her focus.

“It’s really not, because for me the goal is to win tournaments,” said Lewis, 29. “I know all the scenarios. I know the second, third thing, but that’s not what I came here for this week.”

Park can’t play defense. She missed the cut Friday, her first missed cut in a year.

Lewis hit one more fairway than Wie (12) and equaled Wie hitting 17 greens in regulation.

If Lewis ascends to No. 1, it’s another boost to the resurging American women’s game. U.S. players are going for their third consecutive LPGA title, their fifth in the last six events and their seventh overall this season. Korda's in position to become the first American to win twice this year. She won the season-opening Pure Silk-Bahamas Classic.

Though Lewis has just one victory this year, she is dominating the LPGA statistically with her consistency. She leads the tour in official money ($853,617), scoring average (69.5), Rolex Player of the Year points and in the Race to the CME Globe.

England’s next big star is knocking on the LPGA’s door

Hull, who turned 18 in March, is looking to add her first LPGA title to the first Ladies European Tour title she claimed earlier this spring.

Hull is not an LPGA member and is playing the Airbus LPGA Classic on a sponsor’s exemption. If Hull wins Sunday, she can claim LPGA membership for the rest of this year and next year.

Though Hull has plans to play LPGA Q-School in the fall, that might not be necessary for her to gain tour membership, even if she doesn’t win this week. Hull can also claim LPGA membership through non-member equivalent earnings. If by season’s end her money winnings in official LPGA events with a cut are equal to or better than the LPGA member who finishes 40th on the money list, Hull will gain tour membership for next year.

Hull leads the LET’s Order of Merit for 2014. She is playing her fifth LPGA event this year, her third on a sponsor’s exemption. She has three more sponsor invites to use, but based on her LET eligibility Hull will also get LPGA starts at the Ricoh Women’s British Open and Evian Championship. Hull hasn’t qualified for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open because of scheduling conflicts in trying to play qualifier. She can still gain a U.S. Women’s Open exemption, however, with an LPGA victory, or by climbing among the top 25 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings by June 16. She’s No. 43 today.

Three times a Swedish charm?

Nordqvist is seeking her third LPGA title this year. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand in February and the Kia Classic in March.

Nordqvist, 26, is putting on a ball striking clinic in Mobile. She has hit 17 of 18 greens in each of the first three rounds this week. She has missed just two fairways all week.

“I know this golf course,” Nordqvist said. “You can never relax. You always have to keep pushing forward, trying to make birdies, because if you don’t, somebody else will.”

Scottish Sunday school in session?

Matthew has a chance to show the young folks how to close out a victory.

Matthew, 44, showed everyone something about bouncing back on Saturday. After opening with three bogeys over her first five holes, the 36-hole leader looked like she was going to fade away. Instead, Matthew birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to get right back in the hunt.

The Scot is seeking her fifth LPGA title, her 12th worldwide. She won the ’09 Ricoh Women’s British Open.