BELIERE, Fla. (AP) — Maria Fassi always knew that a good shot combined with her explosive power would result in low scores. She chose the right time to finally get together.
Fassi made her way through the rain-softened Pelican Golf Club and ran smoothly to 8th under 62, her career low on the LPGA Tour giving her a two-stroke lead in the Pelican Women’s Championship.
This is the last tournament before the top 60 players qualify for the $7 million CME Group Tour Championship.
24-year-old Fassi from Mexico is ranked 72nd.
“I think every one of us here wants to finish the year at CME,” Fassi said. “For me, it was a very difficult season at the beginning, and I got back on my feet towards the middle and end of the season. So now that I have the chance, especially after today’s round, just keep doing what I did today.”
Fassi felt confident as she returned to her pincer grip. Her strength was an even bigger advantage on soft fairways with little lean.
Lexi Thompson, Carlota Ciganda and Hyo Joo Kim were among those 66 years old. Thompson snapped a more than three-year streak without a win at the Saudi-funded Aramco Team Series tournament in New York last month.
Gaby Lopez started at 65, while Nelli Korda was in the group with 66. Lydia Ko, who could win the LPGA Player of the Year with a win, was six behind at 68.
The Pelican Women’s Championship was washed out on Thursday by Tropical Storm Nicole and was reduced to 54 holes.
Fassi decided to replace her 5-wood with a hybrid, and after a big drive on the 14th par-5, the 5-wood became the perfect stick.
“I thought, ‘OK, this is interesting,'” Fassi said.
She was counting on her hybrid to leave her a few yards off the green, but there was enough wind behind her and enough power in her backswing to hit the green and roll back 8 feet, creating an eagle shot.
“Honestly, I couldn’t have kept a better shot for the Eagle and it felt good to just finish it off with a good shot,” Fassi said.
She was one of the most celebrated college stars after graduating from Arkansas, but the control of her power was mostly what held her back. It took her until her 15th start on the LPGA Tour to seriously struggle, finishing third in Cincinnati.
“I knew a round like this could happen at any point in the year,” Fassi said. “But I think it was more mental and I just let myself go out and play, sort of get out of my way. That was my biggest goal this week.”
One player who will not compete in the CME Group Tour Championship is Lynn Grant of Sweden, who won the Nordic Mixed Tournament when the European Tour and Women’s European Tour competed against each other. In a statement to Golfweek, Grant said she could not travel to the US because she had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I understand that some people want to know why I don’t play in the US and I respect that. For the simple reason that I am not vaccinated,” she said. “As to why, I ask for the same respect in return.”
AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports