06 May 2023 | Professional golf |

Red hot Aussies into Crown semi-finals

by Tony Webeck

Hannah Green, Sarah Kemp image
Hannah Green, sporting earmuffs to protect herself from the chill, and Sarah Kemp at No. 11 today. Photo: Getty

Debutants Stephanie Kyriacou and Sarah Kemp have delivered clutch shots under immense pressure to help secure Australia’s spot in the semi-finals of the International Crown in San Francisco. On the back of their upset 2-0 win over Korea on day one at TPC Harding Park, Kyriacou, Kemp, Minjee Lee and Hannah Green accrued 1.5 further points in Round 2 to ensure they will contest the semi-finals on Sunday. They will go head-to-head with fellow undefeated Pool B team Thailand in the final round robin match on Saturday, safe in the knowledge that are through to the championship finale regardless of that result. Facing off against a Japan team that lost both matches in Round 1, there was little separating either pairings all day. Lee and Kyriacou were one down through nine holes against Nasa Hataoka and Ayaka Furue before Lee swung the match in Australia’s favour with back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11. Japan won both the 12th and 14th holes to go 1 up once again before Kyriacou came to the fore. The 22-year-old levelled the match with a birdie on 15, earned a vital half with a 15-foot birdie putt on 16 and then stuck her tee shot at the long par-3 17th to just a couple of feet to put the Australian team 1 up with one to play. “Steph just stiffed it and it was like a foot,” said Lee, who also made birdie on 17. “Then I hit my second shot really comfortably. “I didn't hit the ball as good today. Steph probably made a few more birdies and kind of got us over the line. Great partner.” Kyriacou and Lee both birdied 18 to round out a 2 up win as the match behind also went down to the final hole. A birdie from Green on two gave the Aussies an early advantage against major champions Hinako Shibuno and Yuka Saso but they never advanced to more than one hole ahead. Saso’s birdie on 12 and Shibuno’s on 14 gave Team Japan a 1 up lead but the Aussies levelled the ledger again with a birdie on the par-5 16th. The par-3 17th was halved in pars and then Kemp stepped up to hole her birdie putt from six feet on 18 to halve the hole and halve the match, thus securing Australia's spot in the semi-finals. “It’s that type of hole that a birdie is going to half and an eagle is probably going to win the hole,” said Kemp. “We were trying to make three, but we knew we were probably going to make four, and it wasn't going to hurt us too bad. “Greeny is right, we played well, we hit it good, we just didn't hole as many putts as yesterday. “We probably could have let it slip a few more, but we really hung in there, and to get this half point is huge.” MEANWHILE Gabi Ruffels produced a stunning 10-under 62 on day one of the Epson Tour’s Garden City Charity Classic in Kansas. Out in one of the final groups of the day, Ruffels turned in four-under before unleashing a birdie barrage on her back nine – the front nine at Buffalo Dunes – to post 10-under and a two-stroke lead. A winner already this season at the Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic, a second win would all but guarantee the Victorian’s promotion to the LPGA Tour in 2024 and put her within one win of an automatic elevation. Ruffels currently sits in first place on the Epson Tour moneylist and was nothing short of spectacular with 17 greens in regulation and only 25 putts in the opening round. ADAM Scott is tapping into his major mentality as he seeks to end a three-year winless drought at the PGA TOUR’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina. Three birdies on his back nine saw Scott sign for a second round of three-under 68 at Quail Hollow Club, drawing to within just one of the lead at eight-under held by Tyrrell Hatton (65), Nate Lashley (66) and Wyndham Clark (67). Scott is level with fellow major champion Justin Thomas (67), Olympic gold medal winner Xander Schauffele (69), JJ Spaun (67), Adam Svensson (67) and Presidents Cup team-mate Sungjae Im (66). “I certainly have had the sense in the players’ lounge or the locker room it’s like major championship golf. “You look around and every big name is here. I think it’s been fantastic so far.”

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