PHOENIX – Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist picks a strange place to call her second home, but she loves it in the desert.
Nordqvist, who was born and raised in Eskilstuna, Sweden, couldn’t have been more comfortable in the record 95-degree heat Saturday at Wildfire Golf Club. She shot a tournament record 11-under-par 61 to bolt to the top of the leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
Nordqvist was a star at Arizona State.
“They always say that home is where the heart is, and my heart is definitely still here,” Nordqvist said.
At 21-under 195, Nordqvist broke the 54-hole Founders Cup record by two shots. That’s also how many shots she’s ahead of a pair of very familiar pursuers, Ariya Jutanugarn (66) and Stacy Lewis (66).
Nordqvist played in the shadow of Jutanugarn and Lewis in the first two rounds but hung close enough to catapult past them with her torrid run in the third round.
“I think we were 36 under par as a group for the first two days,” Nordqvist said. “Someone seemed to be birdieing almost every hole.”
Nordqvist will be back with Jutanugarn again in Sunday’s final round. Lewis will be paired with So Yeon Ryu, who shot 64 on Saturday to move three shots back.
A hot putter helped Nordqvist climb over 12 players in the third round. She’s bogey free this week and needs a 65 Sunday to get to 28 under and break the LPGA’s 72-hole scoring record.
A six-time LPGA winner with a major championship to her credit, Nordqvist didn’t have to look far for comfort Saturday. She was followed by a half dozen Scandinavians, one wearing a Viking helmet.
Terje Erga, a Norwegian, wore the helmet with a pair of horns protruding from it. He is hosting a group of fellow Norwegians and a Swedish pro who have adopted Nordqvist as one of their own.
“We’re big fans,” Erga said.
They let out a noisy howl at the 18th when Nordqvist putted out for her record 61.
Nordqvist is surrounded by supporters this week. She is staying with friends she met in college.
“I have friends here who seem like family,” Nordqvist said. “I just always feel special coming back here.”
So does Lewis, who has a victory, two seconds and a T-4 finish in her last four starts at Wildfire Golf Club.
This feels like a comfortable place for Lewis to break through and win her 12th LPGA title, her first in 33 months. She’s a large supporter of both the LPGA founders and LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, the two entities celebrated this week. Lewis helped fund a documentary about the 13 women who founded the LPGA and is listed as one of its executive producers. She also has been a Girls Golf ambassador.
“I love this week,” Lewis said. “I love not only the founders here, but the kids with Girls Golf. I’ve had two girls follow me around all week.”
Jutanugarn is seeking her sixth LPGA title in a little more than 10 months. Like Nordqvist, she hasn’t made a bogey all week.
“I really like this course,” Jutanugarn said. “I’m just going to try to have some fun tomorrow.”