NAPLES, Fla. – It wasn’t all that long ago that Amy Yang wondered if her LPGA days were numbered. She’d taken her new hobby of rock climbing – at the gym – a bit too far and suffered from tennis elbow in her left arm. She lost distance as it hurt too much to get through the ball.
Now 34-year-old Yang, a four-time winner on the LPGA who joined the tour in 2008, is fully healed and back to playing some of the best golf of her life as she co-leads the CME Group Tour Championship with Nasa Hataoka at 21-under 295. Yang followed Friday’s 63 with a smooth 64. She hasn’t made a bogey at Tiburon Golf Club since the first hole of the opening round.
“Feel quite nervous being in contention,” said Yang, “but I never thought like I have to follow the 9 under par yesterday, because golf, you never know.”
Yang, who shot 61 in the third round of The Annika last week, is no stranger to low scores. She holds a share of the LPGA’s nine-hole record in relation to par at 9 under as well as a share of the lowest nine-hole raw score (27).
In 2015, she tied Annika Sorenstam’s record for total birdies in one round at 13. (Sorenstam’s 13 birdies came during her historic 59.)
Yang also shares the record with Beth Daniel for most consecutive birdies in one round at nine.
Alison Lee of the United States plays her shot from the third tee during the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club on November 18, 2023 in Naples, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
While Hataoka and Yang combine for 10 LPGA titles, Alison Lee, who sits alone in solo third three shots back, would give just about anything to collect her first.
The former UCLA standout is on the hot streak of her life right now with a pair of runner-up finishes in her last two LPGA starts as well as a recent victory on the LET in Saudi Arabia. Lee credits her turnaround in part to the encouragement of new friend and mentor Fred Couples, who texts her every day.
Before Saturday’s round, Couples messaged: “OK, kid, today just keep using your swing to carry you. You’re putting great, playing like the champ that you are. Head high and brain clear, go get ’em.”
After excelling at every level as an amateur, Lee had resigned to the fact that she wouldn’t be the player she thought she’d be growing up.
Now, she’s starting to believe that maybe she can.
“I felt like it was so unattainable for so long,” she said. “For it to be like so close, I want it so bad. I just want it so bad.”
World No. 1 Lilia Vu, currently T-7, has all but formerly locked up the Rolex Player of the Year Award, which is worth one LPGA Hall of Fame point. Celine Boutier needed to win this week to have a chance. She currently trails by 14 strokes.
In the Vare Trophy race, it will take a special round from Hyo Joo Kim to knock off Atthaya Thitikul. Kim needs a round of 64 or better to match Thitikul’s current average. Thitikul can better her current average with a 69.
The winner of the Vare Trophy also receives one Hall of Fame point. A total of 27 points are needed to qualify for one of the toughest Halls in all of sports.