Wie in 4-way tie for lead as Park stumbles at LPGA finale

LPGA Tour pros Stacy Lewis, left, and Michelle Wie share a laugh while waiting to putt on the eighteenth green during the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship golf tournament, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017 in Naples, Fla. Wie finished the day with a score of ten-under par while Lewis finished with a score of nine-under. (Luke Franke/Naples Daily News via AP)
Michelle Wie putts on the 18th hole during the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship golf tournament at Tiburon Golf Club, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017 in Naples, Fla. (Luke Franke/Naples Daily News via AP)
LPGA Tour pro Sung Hyun Park hits out of a bunker during the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburón Golf Club, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017 in Naples, Fla. (Luke Franke/Naples Daily News via AP)
LPGA Tour pro Ariya Jutanugarn acknowledges the crowd after completing a solid day during the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship golf tournament, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017 in Naples, Fla. Jutanugarn finished the day with a score of ten-under par. (Luke Franke/Naples Daily News via AP)
Sung Hyun Park hits on the first holeduring the third round of the CME Group Tour Championship golf tournament at Tiburon Golf Club, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017 in Naples, Fla. (Luke Franke/Naples Daily News via AP)

NAPLES, Fla. — Sung Hyun Park was in the palmetto bushes, near the base of the tree, in the bunkers and going nowhere in the CME Group Tour Championship.

Perhaps most surprising at the end of the day was that Park was no longer in the lead.

What looked to be a victory lap for the 24-year-old rookie from South Korea turned into a free-for-all Saturday at Tiburon Golf Club. Park at least was in solid position, one shot out of the lead, in her bid to become the first rookie since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to sweep all the major LPGA Tour awards.

She just never expected so much company.

Michelle Wie, who lost six weeks to an emergency appendectomy, had a 6-under 66 and was part of a four-way tie for the lead going into the final round. Kim Kaufman, who is recovering from mono, ran off eight birdies in her round of 64. Joining them at 10-under 206 were Ariya Jutanugarn (67) and Suzann Pettersen (69).

"Just really feeling like my old self," said Wie, who hasn't won since the 2014 U.S. Women's Open at Pinehurst No. 2. "Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's why I play my best."

Park, who didn't make a birdie until the 13th hole and shot 75, was among seven players one shot behind.

Now she can only hope her one bad day is behind her.

"I think that over the course of four days, there is always a day where I'm not quite in tip-top shape," Park said. "I think that day might have been today. Keeping your focus is not that easy to do consistently over four days, so I think there is always one day where my focus is a little off."

Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Race to the Globe, suddenly has just as good of a chance as Park to capture the $1 million bonus. Thompson also is poised to win the Vare Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average. Park needed to finish 10 shots ahead of Thompson — she started Saturday six shots ahead — to win the Vare Trophy.

"I'm not going into tomorrow with any different attitude," Thompson said. "Just going to go out there, free swing, commit to my targets, and try to do my best."

The final day is so wide open that 31 players were separated by four shots.

That includes Shanshan Feng, in her debut at No. 1 in the world, and Brooke Henderson of Canada. They only have to win the Tour Championship to claim the CME Race to the Globe. And they all have Park to thank for every having a chance.

Kaufman showed early that low scores were available in her round of eight birdies. Park showed early that it was going to be a grind when she missed the green to the left on No. 2 and pitched far too strong up the slope, leading to bogey.

Then, she hit into palmetto bushes on the par-5 sixth and made double bogey, and the game was on.

Park looked as though she had steadied herself with an 8-foot birdie on No. 13 and scrambling for birdie after a poor drive in the waste area right of the 14th. But she took bogey from the bunker on the par-3 16th to fall back into a share of the lead, and then drove well left on the par-5 17th next to a tree. She chipped into a sandy waste area, came up short into a bunker and failed to get up-and-down.

Stacy Lewis (67), who ended a three-year victory drought two months ago, shot a 67 and was in the group at 9-under 207 that included Thompson (69), Park, Karine Icher (68) and Austin Ernst, whose 69 featured a quadruple-bogey 8 and an eagle-birdie finish on the back nine.

At stake on Sunday is just about everything.

So Yeon Ryu, who was only five shots behind but had 31 players ahead of her on the leaderboard, still had an outside chance at holding on to her lead for LPGA player of the year if Feng, Park and Thompson failed to finish near the top of the leaderboard.

Thompson suddenly looks good for the Vare, while Park remained in good shape to capture the money title.

Jutanugarn, who won five times last year, is No. 9 in the CME Race to the Globe. She could win the $1 million bonus by winning the tournament and have Thompson finish out of the top nine. Instead of a sprint to the finish, so many players have a chance that it still feels like a long way off.

"It's a great way to finish off the season," Pettersen said. "It's a really packed leaderboard. Should be fun tomorrow."

Must Read

Hurricane Harvey closes key oil, gas operations in Texas

Aug 26, 2017

Hurricane Harvey likely to drive up gas prices as key oil and gas facilities temporarily shut down

AP FACT CHECK: Trump, Moore and their odd orbit of claims

Dec 11, 2017

AP FACT CHECK: Trump on economy, monuments, taxes; Moore on women he knew before he didn't.

H-bomb or not, experts say North Korea near its nuclear goal

Sep 7, 2017

H-bomb or not, latest test shows North Korea is mastering some of the most advanced nuclear weapon technologies

People also read these

Hurricane Harvey closes key oil, gas operations in Texas

Aug 26, 2017

Hurricane Harvey likely to drive up gas prices as key oil and gas facilities temporarily shut down

AP FACT CHECK: Trump, Moore and their odd orbit of claims

Dec 11, 2017

AP FACT CHECK: Trump on economy, monuments, taxes; Moore on women he knew before he didn't.

H-bomb or not, experts say North Korea near its nuclear goal

Sep 7, 2017

H-bomb or not, latest test shows North Korea is mastering some of the most advanced nuclear weapon technologies