Anna Nordqvist (61) goes the lowest of the low Saturday to take a two-stroke lead in Phoenix


Thananuwat Srirasant

There are a handful of tournaments on the LPGA Tour where the old saw “par is your friend” rings true. The Bank of Hope Founders Cup isn’t one of them.

Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist jumped to the lead on Saturday after shooting a course-record 61 at Wildfire G.C. in Phoenix, matching a career-best and pushing her to 21-under 195. Nordqvist’s was one of seven scores of 65 or lower on a day where just 10 of the 74 players failed to shoot par or better.

A former Arizona State All-American, Nordqvist, 29, says she felt more than comfortable in the desert, her scorecard suggesting as much with nine birdies and an eagle. Sitting 10 under for her round through 15 holes, she had the chances to shoot a 59 if she had made birdies on her last three holes, but settled for a par-birdie-par finish.

“Absolutely, they always say that home is where the heart is, and my heart is definitely still here. I always say I’m a West Coast girl, and people remind me I’m from Sweden,” said Nordqvist. “Even though I live in Florida now, this definitely feels like home. ASU here and Missy Kaye being the coach now, the team support. My sponsor’s here. I have family and friends here or seemed like family.”

A victory on Sunday would be Nordqvist's seventh career LPGA win and the first since her disappointing playoff loss to Brittany Lang last July at the U.S. Women’s Open.

How impressive was the play Saturday? The two leaders entering the third round, Ariya Jutanugarn and Stacy Lewis, each shot 66s yet finished the day two strokes back of Nordqvist. Nine players are within five shots of the leader with 18 holes to play.

And how low has the scoring been overall? The 36-hole cut of five-under 139 was the lowest in LPGA history, and the tour’s record 72-hole score in relation to par, 27 under set by Annika Sorenstam at the 2001 Standard Register Ping (also in Phoenix) and matched last year at the Founders Cup by Sei Young Kim, is within striking distance.

Meanwhile, of the top 15 players on the leader board, looking at their scores from all three days, only two rounds of the 45 posted were outside the 60s, and both of those there 70.