Ciganda gets tip from Olazabal and shares lead

BY foxsports • November 22, 2014

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) Carlota Ciganda needed help with her putting going into the final event of the LPGA Tour season.

Being home in Spain had its advantages. Jose Maria Olazabal, the two-time Masters champion and wizard with the flat stick, was just a phone call away.

''He's such an unbelievable golfer,'' Ciganda said. ''I called him and I was struggling with my putting. I was like, `Can you please give me a lesson?' We stayed there like three hours on the putting green, just hitting putts. He told me a few things and it seems like it's working. So I'm pretty happy. I have to thank him.''

Her thank-you note was five birdies - only one of them on a par 5 - in a round of 5-under 67 that gave Ciganda a share of the lead with Julieta Granada of Paraguay going into the weekend of the blustery CME Group Tour Championship.

They were at 7-under 137 in what was shaping up as a wild weekend at Tiburon Golf Club.

Ciganda and Granada (71) were one shot ahead of Morgan Pressel, who has made nine birdies over the last 26 holes. Pressel was 3 over through the opening 10 holes of this LPGA Tour finale when she salvaged her start with a 72, and then followed with the best score Friday at 66 to get into the final group.

Another shot back was Michelle Wie, which brought the scope of the tournament clearly into focus.

Wie already has enjoyed a banner season with two victories - one in her native Hawaii, the other the biggest trophy on the LPGA Tour schedule. She captured her first major at Pinehurst No. 2 in the U.S. Women's Open.

Thanks to a 67 on Friday, which included a pitching wedge from 125 yards that she holed for eagle on the seventh hole, Wie suddenly has a million reasons to consider why this season might get even better.

Along with the Tour Championship and its $500,000 prize, this the end of the Race to CME Globe and a $1 million bonus, the biggest payoff in women's golf. Wie has been slightly overlooked at No. 4 in the standings, in part because only the top three players (Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, Lydia Ko) have sole control of their fates. If they win the tournament, they win the Race to CME Globe.

The other part is that Wie injured her hand after her U.S. Women's Open victory and wound up missing nearly three months.

Her round on Friday put her in the group at 5-under 139, and suddenly she is among the favorites for the $1 million bonus. Lewis struggled with distance control in the blustery conditions and shot a 74 to fall six shots out of the lead. Park couldn't buy a putt and shot 74 to fall eight shots behind. Ko, the 17-year-old rookie, at least managed to break par for a second straight day (71) and was five shots behind.

''All I want is an opportunity, a chance,'' Wie said. ''I'm really proud of myself for giving myself that today. I just want to go out there tomorrow and put myself in a great position for Sunday. That's all I want, and that's all I'm asking for. Whatever happens, happens.''

Lewis had to chip in for birdie on the 17th and make a tough par putt on the final hole to salvage her tough day.

''Six back is not a horrible position,'' Lewis said. ''I don't think anybody is running away with this thing. I think it's going to end up being pretty bunched up at the end and probably a playoff on Sunday. I'm right where I need to be. I'm trying not to think about player of the year and all that stuff. It's up there, but trying not to think about it.''

Lewis can sweep all the significant awards at this LPGA Tour finale provided she finishes ahead of Park, and so far she is three shots ahead. Not to be forgotten is that $1 million packaged in $100 in a glass case that they posed with on the eve of the tournament.

The first step is to try to catch the leaders, and there were a dozen players in her way.

Sarah Jane Smith (69) and Sandra Gal (71) joined Wie at 5-under 139, while So Yeon Ryu had another 70 and was three shots out of the lead. Ryu is at No. 5 in the Race to CME Globe and is on the fringe on contending for the big bonus.

The weekend is important for Wie to keep moving forward, and for Lewis, Park and Ko to start making up ground.

''You can make up a lot of ground quickly,'' Granada said. ''But your game has to be on. The toughness of the course will show it.''