CME Group Titleholders Third Round Recap

Natalie Gulbis

Natalie Gulbis plays a shot on the 17th hole during the third round of the CME Group Titleholders at Tiburon Golf Club on November 23, 2013 in Naples, Florida.

CME Group Titleholders
Tiburón Golf Club
Naples, Florida
Third-Round Notes and Interviews
November 23, 2013

Americans Natalie Gulbis and Gerina Piller and Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum are in a tie atop the leaderboard after three rounds of play at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. The trio of players share the lead at 11-under par and are trailed a group of four players by two shots. Rolex Rankings No. 3 and Vare Trophy finalist Stacy Lewis, No. 7  Shanshan Feng, No. 10 Lexi Thompson and second-round leader Sandra Gal are in a tie for fourth at 9-under par.

Two-time LPGA Tour winner Michelle Wie shot a 6-under 66 on Friday to move into solo eighth and sits three shots off the lead. Fresh off receiving her Rolex Player of the Year award on Friday night, No. 1 Inbee Park kept herself in contention after a 3-under 69. The 25-year old, who became the first South Korean to win Player of the Year, is in a tie for ninth at 7-under par.

Gulbis carded eight birdies and one bogey on Friday en route to a 7-under 65, her best round since the final round of the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship. The 12-year LPGA Tour veteran said she has been reworking her swing with Coach Butch Harmon in her off weeks and made a transition to a new set of TaylorMade irons.

“I've been off for three weeks and I've been home in Las Vegas working with my coach, Butch Harmon,” said Gulbis. “I didn't play that well in Asia and there was a lot to do on my golf game.  I changed irons, which as any player knows it's quite a process to change irons and switch to the new TaylorMade irons and just spent a lot of time with Butch redoing every aspect of my game and just working on fundamentals.”

Gulbis is playing for her first win since she earned her lone victory at the 2007 Evian Masters. Piller and Phatlum are both fighting for their first career wins. Phatlum won the unofficial HSBC Brasil Cup last season.

Piller, who was a one of Meg Mallon’s captain’s picks for this year’s U.S. Solheim Cup team, said the experience in Parker, Colo. this summer has helped prepare her for high pressure situations. In her debut at the team competition, she said she learned how to play with nerves and make big shots down the stretch.

“Tomorrow I think I'm just going to keep telling myself what I've been telling myself, when you stand on that first tee, just because you're nervous doesn't mean you're going to hit a bad shot,” said Piller. “I feel like I'm striking it well and this win would be ‑‑ I mean, just winning has always been a goal of mine and I've never won as a professional.  So, for one, I'm excited that I put myself in this position to begin with and just have fun with it.  It's the last round of the year.

Fellow U.S Solheim Cup team member Stacy Lewis shot the round of the day and set a new tournament record with a 9-under 63. The 28-year old tied her career low, which she shot previously on three separate occasions. She carded eight birdies, an eagle and one bogey to jump from T23 to a tie for fourth.

The Woodlands, Texas native had some extra motivation for moving day and is trying to clinch the Vare Trophy for the LPGA’s low scoring average. She said her round on Friday was one of the best she’s had all year.

“It's up there pretty high more just because of the Vare Trophy,” said Lewis. “We kind of ‑‑ we became ‑‑ I think average‑wise we became closer after the last two rounds so that was more my motivation than anything.  Once I got ‑‑ once I was like 5‑under on the day, I kind of started looking at the leaderboard saying if I can make a few more, I can give myself a chance going into tomorrow.  Definitely one of the best rounds of the year.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, CME Group Tour Championship, Gulbis, Natalie, Lewis, Stacy, Thompson, Lexi, Piller, Gerina, Park, Inbee [+]