August 26 2018: Indian hopes of a deeper presence on the LPGA Tour is gaining traction with the performance of Sharmila Nicollet and Neha Tripathi this week. The duo played some of their best golf yet to solidify their chances of qualifying to stage II. Sharmila shot one under 71 in the third round of the Qualifying Tournament – Stage I at Rancho Mirage in California. Neha produced a brilliant 69 to move inside the top 50.
Celina Yuan is leading the table at 11-under 205, built on a first round 64. She scored 71 and 70 in the next two rounds.
Ingrid Gutierrez Nunez is lying second, one behind Celina. She has scores of 67-70-69 in the three rounds. Incredibly there are four amateurs in the top 10 at this stage. Two of them – Yujeong Son and Suzuka Yamaguchi are at nine under in T3.
Taylor Totland punctuated the run of the amateurs by taking the fifth spot at 8-under through 54 holes. Amateurs Gigi Stoll and Georgia Lacey are in T6 at 6-under. Nicole Garcia is keeping them company.
Sharmila had scores of 70 and 75 in the first two rounds. Needing a good effort to secure herself past the third round cut, the golfer from Bengaluru squeezed in comfortably at T37. Sharmila is even par through 54 holes at 216, having played the Shadow Ridge, Dinah Shore and Arnold Palmer courses.
Sharmila made five birdies on Saturday. But her card was tarnished by back to back bogeys at the 6th and 16th holes.
Neha started off with a birdie at the second hole. She turned into her rampant best at the bend, producing three birdies in four holes from the 7th to force her way up the order.
A bogey at the 12th was her lone blemish on a good day on the Dinah Shore course. The final round will also be played on the same course, so that should leave Neha in a good frame of mind for Sunday. Neha is one shot behind Sharmila.
Nikita Arjun was the only other Indian to make the third round cut. After starting her week with a 78, Nikita played well to score 71 & 72 in the next two rounds. Nikita will need a strong low round though if she harbours hopes of moving inside the top 60.
Those advancing to Stage II shall include a minimum of the lowest 100 scores and ties after 72 holes. Those at the next score, or scores, will also advance to Stage II, provided the total number of players entered into Stage II following the conclusion of The Evian Championship does not exceed 216.
The notification of the additional advancing players will occur following The Evian Championship on September 17, when the field for Stage II is finalized.
Astha Madan (69-77-79), Gursimar Badwal (75-78-74) and Rhea Nair (81-86-86) missed out at the end of three rounds. Tanya Wadhwa was disqualified at the end of her second round.