The championship match at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play presented by MGM Rewards will feature Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn and Japan’s Ayaka Furue, both of whom will be looking to capture their second LPGA Tour titles on Sunday at Shadow Creek.
Anannarukarn was the first to claim victory, winning 3 and 1 over Swedish Ladies European Tour winner Linn Grant. The Thai birdied the first two holes of the day to take an early 2-up lead, tying the next four holes with the Swede, until Grant got a shot back with a birdie on the par-5, 7th hole to get back to one down. Grant then squared the match on No. 9, making eagle on the par 5 to tie things up, but Anannarukarn regained the lead with a birdie on the par-4, 10th hole, now 1 up with eight to play. Wins on holes 12 and 14 gave Anannarukarn a 3-up advantage with four to go, and while Grant tried her best to mount a late charge, getting back to 2 down with a birdie on 16, Anannarukarn managed to close out the match on the par-3, 17th, making par to claim a 3-and-1 victory and advance to the finals for the very first time.
“I was really focusing on my game. It's fun to watch and (Linn) was playing brilliant golf again, starting like birdie in four holes or fifth holes. But, I mean, we started off really good and I just really tried to stay in my zone and stay in the zone,” said Anannarukarn. “I think (Ayaka is) the beast here. Like she did really well last year and she played very consistent golf. I think it's just going to be a fun afternoon and I'm looking forward to playing with her.”
The second match of Sunday morning pitted two undefeated players against each other, with Furue and Leona Maguire both 5-0-0 through the first four days, but it was Furue who came out on top, taking down the Solheim Cup superstar 2 and 1 in the semifinals. Furue tried to set the tone early, winning the par-4, 1st hole to go 1 up, but Maguire wasn’t having it, taking the next two holes to flip the match and sit 1 up through three holes. After Furue tied things up with a par on No. 5, Maguire won holes 6 and 7 to move to 2 up with 11 holes to play and those would ultimately be the last two holes the Ireland native would win for the rest of the match. Furue eagled No. 9 and birdies No. 10 to square match, taking the lead once again with a par on No. 12 to move one ahead.
The pair tied the next two holes and Furue’s lead was extended on 15 when Maguire conceded the hole, putting the Japan native 2 up with three to play, and the Ireland native was unable to make a miraculous comeback, tying holes 16 and 17 with Furue to lose 2 and 1 and hand the 23-year-old a berth in the championship match for the second consecutive year.“I'm totally satisfied with my play today, but honestly, luckily (Leona had) some mistakes I was kind of lucky today,” Furue. “I feel really happy to get to the final round two years in a row. I know it's difficult, but I feel really happy right now.”