NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Titleholders is becoming a back-breaking test.
The leaderboard is also making it look like a major champion’s test.
American Brittany Lincicome is battling through back pain to try to win the LPGA’s season-ending event at TwinEagles Club.
So is South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu, thanks to a night in high heels.
At this rate, Sunday’s finish might come down to who can endure the most pain, or who gets the best physiotherapy work.
Lincicome and Ryu, however, have some work to do to catch South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi, whose back appears to be holding up just fine with the weight of a 54-hole lead on it.
Choi’s 3-under-par 69 Saturday moved her into sole possession of the lead.
At 12-under 204, Choi is one shot ahead of Japan’s Ai Miyazato (71), two ahead Ryu (68), three ahead of Lincicome (70) and France’s Karine Icher (70) and four in front of China’s Shanshan Feng (69) and Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist (69).
TwinEagles may not be set up as a major championship test with hardly any rough and some unusual green complexes, but the leaderboard is dominated by major champions.
Choi won this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, Ryu won it last year. Lincicome won the ’09 Kraft Nabisco, Feng this year’s LPGA Championship and Nordqvist the ’09 LPGA Championship. Seven-time major champion Karrie Webb is just five back. So is another major champion, Suzann Pettersen.
“I think it will be really exciting,” Choi said.
And possibly full of pain.
“Today was better, but, still, the first couple holes, my lower body wouldn’t let me follow through,” Lincicome said. “I’ll go ice [my back] and get it worked on one more time and hopefully it will be better tomorrow.”
Lincicome was in so much pain after four holes in the first round, she had to lie down on the course while an LPGA physiotherapist worked on her back. She believes she hurt herself hauling luggage a couple weeks ago.
The long-hitting Lincicome is looking for her sixth LPGA title.
Ryu, the LPGA’s rookie of the year, hurt her back Saturday hitting a tee shot at the ninth hole.
“It was really painful,” Ryu said.
Ryu dressed up in a gown with high heels Friday night to receive her Rolex Rookie of the Year award. She said she rarely wears high heels, and she wonders if doing so hurt her back.
“I’m not a big fan of high heels,” Ryu said.
Choi took a final-round lead into the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run and held on to win despite a shaky back nine. It was her sixth LPGA title and first major.
“I think I had extra pressure after the major because a lot of people said, `You’re a major champion,’ and a lot of people expect better results,” Choi said. “I can’t control that.”
Choi will be thinking housing prices come Sunday. She has special motivation to win.
“I’m looking for a new house in Orlando,” Choi said. “I want a good result to buy a house.”
A $500,000 first-place check will go a long way to upgrading her plans.