RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Jennifer Kupcho started fast and continued Saturday in the Chevron Championship to take a six-stroke lead in the all-time final round at Mission Hills in the Major Championship.
Kupcho shot an 8-under 64 on another warm, sunny afternoon in the Coachella Valley for a tournament record 16-under 200 overall. Defending champion Patty Tavatanakit, playing alongside Kupcho in the penultimate group, finished second after a 70.
Kupcho put himself in position to win for the first time on the LPGA Tour and take the final leap of victory at Poppie’s Pond, three years after squandering a berth in the event to play and win this week there in the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
The tournament that started in 1972 and came of age in 1983 moved to Houston after failing to attract a sponsor willing to keep it in the storied Mission Hills.
Kupcho birdied eight of the first 12 holes in generally calm conditions. After an opening par, the 24-year-old former Colorado Wake Forest star birdied in the next four. She birdied the No. 8 and opened the back nine with three straight birdies.
Tavatanakit looked set to take the lead on the par-5 11th when she hit her second 256-yard 6-footer, with Kupcho in the bunker on the left green side in two. But Tavatanakit missed the eagle putt and Kupcho went up and down for a birdie, netting a 6-footer to tie Tavatanakit.
Both players bogeyed the par-4 13th, and Kupcho extended the lead to seven on the par-3 17th when she birdied a 10-foot putt and Tavatanakit dropped a shot. Tavatanakit got one with a birdie on the par-5 18th.
Kupcho broke the 54-hole, 14-under record set by Pernilla Lindberg in 2018 and equaled by Tavatanakit last year. Dottie Pepper set the 72 hole mark of 19 under 269 in 1999.
Jessica Korda finished third at 9 under after a 67.
“They bake those greens, so it’s really tough and you have to keep figuring out where to land it and how much it might roll,” Korda said. “It plays a pretty big role, especially on some of these pins.”
Annie Park shot a 73 to drop to 7 under.
Lexi Thompson, the 2014 champion, had a game of 71 Brooke Henderson (67), Hannah Green (68), Gabriela Ruffels (71), Hyo Joo Kim (73) and Nanna Koerstz Madsen (72) at 6 under.
“As far as scoring, obviously I have to shoot like lightning, but honestly I’m enjoying every step of being the last lap here,” Thompson said. “I hope they can organize another event here.”
Koerstz Madsen has won and lost in the playoffs in her last two starts, beating Xiyu Lin three weeks ago in Thailand to become the first Danish winner in LPGA Tour history and losing to Atthaya. Thitikul last week at Carlsbad.
Round two leader Hinako Shibuno had a 77 to drop 12 strokes back.
Top-ranked Jin Young Ko, the 2019 winner, was even tied after a 74.
Brooke Seay, the Stanford junior who turned down Augusta a spot to play the final event at Mission Hills, was the only one of the four amateurs in the field to qualify. She was 1 over after a 75.