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Ciganda shoots 6-under 66 in blustery conditions to share lead at LPGA Ford Championship

Carlota Ciganda Carlota Ciganda - The Canadian Press

GILBERT, Ariz. (AP) — Carlota Ciganda went to Arizona State and has lived in Arizona for the last six years, so she’s used to the desert wind picking up in the afternoon.

Growing up in Northern Spain prepared her for the gales that hit the Ford Championship in the third round, putting her in position to win on the LPGA Tour for the first time in eight years.

Staying steady in blustery conditions, Ciganda shot 6-under 66 to share the lead with fellow hometown favorite Sarah Schmelzel and Hyo Joo Kim Saturday in the LPGA Tour Ford Championship.

“I’m from the north of Spain and I have four seasons there, so it can get really cold, it can get windy, it can get anything,” Ciganda said. "So I think I’m ready to play in any condition and I like when it’s challenging."

It was certainly was after two days of perfect weather and low scoring gave way to gusty wind that had balls oscillating on the greens at Seville Golf and Country Club.

Hannah Green had the overnight lead at 14 under, but quickly fell back as the wind made pulling the right club and even putting difficult.

The leaders found a way to navigate the tough conditions.

Ciganda had two eagles before the wind started sending plumes of dust across the course. She held on through a windy back nine to post an early 15-under 201 in her bid to win for the first time since the 2016 KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea.

“It can get a little windy in the afternoons, but today was a bit extreme,” Ciganda said.

Schmelzel, also an Arizona resident who grew up in the area, shot 70 in her bid to win on the LPGA Tour for the first time. Kim had three birdies in her first four holes and closed with 14 straight pars to shoot 69.

Yuka Saso overcame a four-putt double bogey on No. 15 with two birdies in her final three holes to shoot 69 and reach 14 under. She’s tied with Maja Stark, who had one of the free bogey-free rounds with a 66.

Top-ranked Nelly Korda stayed steady to shoot 69 and is two shots back in her bid to become the first LPGA player to win three straight starts since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016. She chipped in on the island par-3 17th for a second straight birdie to join 10 players at 13 under.

“It was brutal, played like a completely different golf course,” Korda said. “I think the wind started picking up at noon and just got progressively windier and windier as the day went on. It’s very open out here, so the ball gets hit really hard with this weather. Happy to get in at 3 under.”

Lexi Thompson was in that group as well, two-putting for birdie on the par-5 18th for a 69 that put her in contention to win for the first time in five years.

Ciganda was among the players who took advantage of an earlier tee time, eagling the par-5 fifth hole and adding another on the short par-4 16th to climb quickly up the leaderboard.

Playing in front of numerous family and friends in the afternoon, Schmelzel rolled in a 50-foot birdie putt on No. 10, but gave it back on the next hole by missing a short par putt. She rolled in a birdie on the par-4 13th and got up and down for another on the short par-4 16th to reach 15 under.

“It was definitely a grind,” Schmelzel said. “It’s so tough putting in those conditions when it’s so blustery. You just have to add an element into your reads and everything.”

Green had 11 birdies — second-most in LPGA Tour history — in a second-round 61 that gave her the overnight lead by one. She had a hard time following it up in the wind, shooting a 75 that drop to 11 under.


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