Nordqvist, Knight avoid upset bug at Match Play

Golf

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Anna Nordqvist had all three of her matches go the distance, and only a clutch wedge kept her from playing even more Friday as she was among 16 players who advanced out of group play in the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play.

Nordqvist would have faced a three-way playoff if she lost to Andrea Lee. That appeared likely when the Swede hit into the creek in front of the 18th green at Shadow Creek while Lee was on the green some 50 feet from the hole.

Nordqvist, the top seed in her group, hit a wedge that caught the back slope and settled 3 feet away and Lee three-putted for bogey to halve the match and send Nordqvist (2-0-1 in group play) into the weekend.

“I hit a good wedge in there to tie the match,” Nordqvist said. “I’m very happy to move on.”

Cheyenne Knight was just as clutch, minus the water. She came in 2-0 in her group and needed only to halve her match against Sei Young Kim to advance. Otherwise, Knight would have faced a three-way playoff.

Kim was 1 up and hit just long of the green. Knight hit a sand wedge from 85 yards and caught the slope and stopped 2 inches from going in for eagle. Kim missed her chip, conceded the halve and Knight was headed to the knockout stage.

The weekend at Shadow Creek has a European flavor in a Solheim Cup year, eight Europeans among the 16 players remaining.

Five of those players won all three of their matches in group play. That includes Albane Valenzuela of Switzerland, who took out Lilia Vu in the first round and never gave her another chance. Vu was the top seed in the 64-player field coming off her first major at the Chevron Championship.

“It feels great,” Valenzuela said. “I also know how match play is. You can win three points. It doesn’t matter tomorrow. It’s just a huge reset.”

The next highest seed, Brooke Henderson of Canada, lost her opening match and never recovered. Sophia Schubert won her match to take the group.

The highest seed still alive is Celine Boutier of France (3), who went 3-0 in group play.

Only one group went to a sudden-death playoff. Pajaree Anannarukarn of Thailand lost to Karis Davidson, and they headed back to the 18th for a playoff.

The Thai hit what looked to be the perfect drive down the right side, bounding along the first cut when it came to rest in a deep divot. Anannarukarn ripped it out of there and onto the green, and she wound up winning with a 3-foot par when Davidson missed the green long.

“I was thinking, ‘Out of all the places, I’m in the divot.’ But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” Anannarukarn said. “Try to hit the green. And it was … just perfect.”

Alison Lee, who now lives in Las Vegas and occasionally plays at Shadow Creek, halved two matches and then faced fellow Vegas resident Danielle Kang in a group that at one point looked as if it might have a four-way playoff.

Lee seized control late, and Kang’s last hope was to play a left-handed chip because her ball was just outside a bunker. That flew the green and Lee advanced when Muni He lost to Maria Fassi.

Only seven of the top seeds in the 16 groups advanced. The others were Ayaka Furue (5) of Japan; Leona Maguire (7) of Ireland; Linn Grant (8) and Maja Stark (11) of Sweden; and Carlota Ciganda (12) of Spain

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