Valenzuela knocks off Nordqvist as LPGA Match-Play quarter-finals set

Japan’s Ayaka Furue rallied late for a 2&1 victory over Celine Boutier on Saturday to reach the semi-finals of the LPGA Match-Play, where she’s trying to improve on a runner-up finish last year.

Furue, celebrating her 23rd birthday on Saturday, was 1-down through 13 holes against France’s Boutier — who had only trailed at one hole in four prior matches this week at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Furue tied it up with a birdie at the par-four 14th, then rolled in a long birdie putt to win the par-five 16th — where Boutier’s birdie putt burned the edge but didn’t drop.

Furue closed it out at the par-three 17th, where Boutier was in trouble off the tee, and lined up a final-four clash with Ireland’s Leona Maguire, who beat American Lindsey Weaver-Wright 3&2.

“Just happy to win today,” said Furue, who lost to South Korean Ji Eun-hee in last year’s final. “It’s mentally and physically tough to have two rounds in just one day. I have experienced that last year, so hopefully I can get some kind of experience (from going through) today’s rounds.”

The other semi-final on Sunday morning will pit Sweden’s Linn Grant against Thailand’s Parajee Anannarukarn — two more 23-year-olds.

Grant defeated Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela 3&1 while Pajaree beat Spain’s Carlotta Ciganda 3&2.

Pajaree was 1-down to Ciganda through 11 holes but won four straight to go 3-up through 15 and got the win when they both parred the 16th.

“Tired,” Pajaree said after her two-match day. “I feel like my body started to feel a little numb on the fifth and sixth, so glad I was able to follow it all the way to the 16.”

Valenzuela, coming off an impressive round of 16 victory over European Solheim Cup star Anna Nordqvist, won the opening hole against Grant, but Grant, a five-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, won the third and fourth to take the lead and wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.

She won all three of the front-nine par-fives with birdies to move 3-up at the turn.

“I think that made a huge difference,” said Grant, who then answered all three of Valenzuela’s hole wins on the back nine with wins of her own.

Maguire, who was 2-down to Weaver-Wright through three holes, won five of the next six holes to take command. She won the par-five fourth with a birdie and after they split the fifth Maguire won four straight in a run highlighted by her chip-in for eagle at the seventh.

“It was a bit back and forth,” said Maguire, who had gone bogey-free in her 5&3 morning victory over Perrine Delacour. “I was 2-down early, chipped in for eagle on seven which was sort of a nice momentum kick forward.”


© Agence France-Presse