MOBILE, Ala. – The scores are low and the calorie-count is high this week in Mobile, where the Crossings Course delivers all kinds of Southern comforts.
One day after Sydnee Michaels posted a course-record 62, Anna Nordqvist sauntered in with a 61. The only thing sweeter: the course’s legendary banana pudding.
Here at the RTJ Golf Trail at Magnolia Crossing, it’s a blur of red. Chella Choi leads at 17-under 199. The winning score last year after four rounds: 17 under.
“A 66 on this course this week is just kind of average,” said Stacy Lewis, the 2012 champion. Lewis made nine birdies in 12 holes on Saturday to shoot 63 and get back in the tournament. She’s currently tied for sixth and four shots back.
As a general rule, Lewis prefers a more difficult setup, but knows it’s fun for the fans.
“We picked up people kind of as the round went on,” said Lewis, “and it was fun to kind of give them a show.”
Nordqvist walked off the 18th green and declared this her first good day of putting in a couple years. And she wasn’t exaggerating.
“It just felt like I couldn’t miss,” she said.
The tall Swede had 10 birdies, an eagle and one three-putt bogey in her round of 61. She hit 14 fairways and 17 greens and holed a 10-yard bunker shot on the 12th hole to save par. Her Swedish physio, a man named K.G., was on the bag. His job: keep her in a good mood. Talk about easy.
Nordqvist hasn’t won since her rookie year in 2009, but said she has succeeded in building a more consistent game. Her performance on Saturday at the Crossings Course helped confirm she’s doing the right things.
“It’s one of those days where you feel like all your hard work and your patience is paying off,” said Nordqvist. “You look back on the day, you see yourself with a lot of confidence and know you can do it and believe in yourself.”
For Choi, this week has been as much about mental hurdles as anything else. She said it’s the first time she has been able to watch leaderboards throughout the round without a negative impact.
One still gets the feeling Choi is talking herself into this position. On Friday, Choi said she might get her first win this week. She quickly followed that up with a “just kidding!”
On Saturday, Choi was asked about winning and said, “I think, I think I can do it … hopefully.”
It’s a drastic change from those in the final pairing: Karrie Webb and Jessica Korda. They’ll be paired together for a fourth consecutive day on Sunday and feel confident about where they stand. Korda, winner of last year’s Australian Open, is tied for second with Nordqvist while Hall of Famer Webb is two shots back.
There’s 18 years and 6 inches between the two but they take jabs at each other like sisters. While the pair was doing a television interview together, Webb switched positions with Korda so that she’d be on higher ground.
“Feel better now?” Korda quipped.
Jokes aside, Korda said she learns from Webb every time they play together, which means Mobile will be a four-credit course. Webb has 38 career victories on the LPGA and has made 53 consecutive cuts, making her an ideal instructor.
The par 5s at the Crossings Course are reachable, and Korda made the 16th hole look easy with a 300-plus drive and a 6-iron to 33 feet. The eagle putt put Korda back at 16 under after a bogey-double bogey run on Nos. 11 and 12 dropped her to 13 under.
Korda found herself in a divot on the 11th hole and tweaked her right wrist. The pain caused her to hit “bad shot after bad shot” on the 12th — leading to a plugged lie and a double.
The wrist saga goes back to Hawaii, when Korda hit her ball out of the rough on the 17th hole and smacked a hidden metal pipe one foot in front of her ball.
“Stacy (Lewis) said it sounded like I broke my hand,” said Korda, who shoved her hand into an ice bucket on the 18th tee, took two Advils and then finished the round. Mobile is Korda’s first tournament back since the injury.
With the course playing dry and the greens holding nicely for the first time since they were redone in 2009, Webb said she’d like the course to play longer. While she likes seeing players like Korda hitting 6-irons into par 5s, she’d prefer the par-4 setups to be a bit more challenging.
“You only have to lengthen two or three par 4s and it would change the way the course plays dramatically,” Webb said.
As it stands, fans will see more sizzle on Sunday as records continue to fall.
“Every hole (is a) birdie chance,” said Choi.
Shoot 70 and get lapped.