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Nelly Korda
Nelly Korda
Atthaya leads Korda by one at Chevron Championship

LOS ANGELES: Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul was clinging to a one-stroke lead over history-chasing Nelly Korda when thunderstorms halted play in the LPGA Chevron Championship in Texas on Saturday. Overnight co-leader Atthaya had three birdies in her first 11 holes and had the solo lead at 11-under through 12 when storms halted play. About two and a half hours later, amid continuing dangerous weather conditions, officials suspended play for the day in the first women’s major of the year, with players to return to complete the round on Sunday before playing the final round.

World number one Korda, who is seeking to equal the LPGA record of five victories in five consecutive starts, had three birdies in her first eight holes to reach 10-under and will face a four-foot putt for par at the 12th hole when play resumes on Sunday.

She was tied with Canadian Brooke Henderson, who roared up the leaderboard with seven birdies and an eagle in the first 14 holes before a three-putt bogey at 16 dropped her to 10-under for the tournament, where she stood when play was halted. Atthaya, who has two LPGA tour wins and four on the Ladies’ European Tour, is launching her 2024 campaign at the first women’s major of the year after recovering from a left thumb injury. But the 21-year-old was undaunted at the prospect of a long day on Sunday.

“I think it’s not that big deal. I think last year in a Malaysia I played more than this (in one day) with the playoff, 27 holes, which is fine. Still young now—still good,” she said. Atthaya said the most important thing would be to “keep the mindset I had today. “The ball-striking was good. The putting was not that bad. Kind of stuck to my process today and then also stayed in my kind of small world, which is nice.” Korda said a softer course at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, near Houston, allowed her to be more aggressive.

Although she the weather was “holding up nicely” when play was halted, she said the eight-iron she hit on 12 was affected by a shift in the wind.

A lot of opportunities

The American, trying to join Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2005) as the only players to win five consecutive LPGA starts, put a positive spin on the truncated day. “If you think about it positively, then I have a lot of opportunities left in the day that I can go out and maybe capitalize on a couple of them, then that’s good,” she said. Henderson was one hole shy of completing an impressive round.

She was nine-under for the day and 11-under for the tournament before a three-putt bogey at 16, and has just one hole to complete in the third round. “I’ve been hitting it really well all week,” Henderson said. “I just wasn’t really capitalizing on some of the opportunities. I was just playing really steady, really solid.

“Today I was able to make a few putts. Made a clutch par save on six, birdie on seven and then a long one on eight for eagle, so I kind of just really felt a lot of great momentum with my putter and was able to keep it pretty hot throughout the back nine. “A little disappointed I dropped the one shot on 16, but I have (hole) 18 left tomorrow morning early, so hopefully (I’ll) go out and post a good score and then go into tomorrow with a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum.” – AFP

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