Saturday, February 24, 2018
Golf

Rinker takes lead in LPGA Legends Tour event

PALM HARBOR — The moment felt too familiar to Laurie Rinker, walking off the 18th green at the Innisbrook Resort's Island Course as the opening-round leader of the LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship.

But Rinker hopes to rewrite the ending a year after taking a one-stroke lead into the final round of the 36-hole event and then shooting 4-over 77 and tying for seventh.

Rinker, a Florida graduate from Stuart, was bogey-free Saturday and had two eagles to shoot 6-under 67 and open up a three-shot lead going into today's final round.

"I hit a lot of good shots and drove the ball well, hit my irons well," Rinker said.

Trish Johnson, a rookie on the 45-and-over tour, Lorie Kane and Tampa resident Nancy Scranton were tied for second in the tour's season finale. Michele Redman, the 2011 champion, and Jean Bartholomew were 2 under.

Defending champion Laura Davies was the only other golfer to post an eagle, on 10, but mixed in three birdies and seven bogeys, and was 2 over.

Rinker was 1 under through the back nine before reaching the green in two at the par-5, 425-yard 10th hole and sinking a 10-foot putt for eagle. She repeated the feat on the par-5, 450-yard 15th hole, draining a 20-footer to move to 6 under.

"Those were my two longest putts I made," Rinker said. "The other birdies were tap-ins."

Rinker, who is hobbled by a combination of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis in her left foot, wasn't sure she would be able to play this weekend.

"Luckily we get to ride in carts, because if I had to walk, I don't think I would have been able to play," she said. "I'm limping a little bit, but I try to manage it, stretch it a lot."

Johnson bogeyed the first hole but birdied two of the next three holes to get under par and stay there.

"It's a tough golf course," Johnson said. "It's the first time I played it. The wind swirls a bit. 70 is a decent score. Hopefully I can shoot 3 or 4 under (today), and you never know."

Kane had three birdies over the back nine after playing even through the front. In September at the tour's Legends Championship in French Lick, Ind., Kane and Rinker shared the lead going into the final round. Kane eagled the 18th hole to win by two shots.

"I like where I'm at," Kane said. "I like being the chaser."

Scranton birdied 13 and 16 to get within striking distance of Rinker.

"I think I hit all but one green," Scranton said. "I just played really solid. It was fun. I hit a lot of good shots. Three strokes on this golf course isn't that big of a deal."

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