Zhang, Lindblad lead Augusta Women’s Amateur

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Ingrid Lindblad of Sweden had a 2-under 70 for one of only three rounds under par in the wind and chill Thursday, giving her a share of the lead with top-ranked Rose Zhang going into the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Zhang, the 17-year-old U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, bogeyed her final hole for a 72.

They were at 1-under 143 as the top 30 now head to the home of the Masters on Saturday for the final round. The final spot went to Maja Stark of Sweden, who plays at Oklahoma State. She won a 5-way playoff for the 30th and final spot by rolling in an 18-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole at No. 10.

Conditions at Champions Retreat were cold and blustery, and it showed in the scoring. Olivia Mehaffey of Northern Ireland was the only player to break 70. After opening with a 75, Mehaffley shot 32 on the front nine and closed with eight straight pars for a 69.

“Today was definitely a lot more windy, and some of the pin locations were a lot tougher than yesterday,” Zhang said. “But I think that the wind really made the scores a lot higher, and it was a lot harder to play out there, especially hole-by-hole and shot-by-shot.”

The other round under par belonged to Gina Kim (71).

That sets up a final group of two of the best in women’s amateur golf for the final round at Augusta National. Zhang is No. 1 in the women’s amateur ranking while Lindblad, a sophomore at LSU, is at No. 4.

Mehaffey and Auston Kim (72) were another shot back at 144.

Zhang and Mehaffey were among nine players who will get another chance to compete at Augusta National. They reached the final round in the inaugural event in 2019. The Augusta National Women’s Amateur was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I mean, it’s Augusta National. We’re on this stage right now that the whole world’s watching, and there’s going to be more pressure than I’m sure anybody’s ever felt,” Mehaffey said. “I think it’s obviously going to be difficult. You have to kind of go in prepared for that.”

Kate Smith was at 4 under when the first round was halted Wednesday by strong storms. She returned Thursday morning and dropped four shots for a 72, and then was on her heels most of the second round. She still was poised to earn a spot in the final round until a three-putt from about 20 feet on the par-3 17th hole.

Had she finished with two pars, 30 players would have finished at 6-over 150. Instead, Smith was part of the five-way playoff, and she missed her 25-foot birdie putt.

Yu-Sang Hou, Amari Avergy and Lauren Hartlage also missed their birdie chances to match Stark.

Two years ago, there was an 11-way playoff for the final 10 spots.

The preliminaries over, all 82 players in the field headed to Augusta National on Friday for a practice round. Then, the 30 who made the cut will play for the title.

Jennifer Kupcho won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur with a dynamic charge on the back nine to beat her good friend, Maria Fassi.

“You see what Maria and Jennifer did two years ago,” Mehaffey said. “It was incredible, and it really shook the golf world. I think that’s something that we have the ability to do this week again, and that would be very special to do.”

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