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22nd March 2015 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Simon finds pace at Phoenix Cup

2015SLTO_Ashleigh Simon_SLTFour-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Ashleigh Simon is gunning for a low final round in the LPGA Tour’s JTBC Founders Cup today after crossing a big hurdle in Arizona.

Simon started her season on the LPGA Tour in January, but struggled for form and, after missing the cut in her first two events, the Johannesburg pro returned home to campaign on the 2015 Sunshine Ladies Tour.

After ties for third in her first two starts, she followed a top 10 finish in the Cape Town Ladies Open with victory in the Sunshine Ladies Tour Open and a joint runner-up finish in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge.

Buoyed by the return to form, Simon took her A-game to Phoenix and is bang on target after three rounds at the Wildfire Golf Club.

Simon is targeting a spot in the season’s first Major – the ANA Inspiration – and needs a good finish in Phoenix and another solid performance in the Kia Classic next week if she hopes to make the field for Mission Hills an early April.

Simon opened with a two-under-par 70 at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa and negated three bogeys with a hat-trick of birdies for an even-par 72 in round two to advance to the weekend. Another 70 in the third round will see her start the final round at four-under-par 212.

She lags 16 strokes off the pace from Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim, who leads by two from American Stacy Lewis after rounds of 65, 69 and 66.

“I’m not looking at the leaderboard and thinking that I need to shoot the lights out to catch the leaders,” Simon said. “It was important to make the weekend to gain points and improve my ranking and that will be my only focus in the final round.

The better I do, the more points I gain and the closer I get to qualifying field for Mission Hills. I played really well on Saturday, although I was disappointed not to birdie all the par fives.

“I struggled a bit with my wedges, but I worked on it after the round, and hopefully the problem is sorted out.”

Simon qualified for the season-ending Investec Cup for Ladies on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, but had to make a tough call while her form was running hot.

“It was a tough decision to miss the last event, especially after playing my way to fourth in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies standings,” Simon said.

“Playing the Sunshine Ladies Tour was well worth it, though, because I got my game sorted out. I’m hitting the ball more freely now, putting really well and I gained a lot of confidence from the last two weeks at home.”

PHOTO – Ashleigh Simon; credit Catherine Kotze / SASPA