Ewing beats Kang to reach LPGA Match Play semifinals

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) — Ally Ewing made a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th hole Saturday to beat local favorite Danielle Kang 1 up and join three major champions in the LPGA Match Play semifinals.

“It was a grind,” Ewing said after the long, hot day at Shadow Creek. “Danielle is a competitor and I knew it was going to be a match from the start.”

Ewing will face Ariya Jutanugarn, a 5-and-4 winner over Minjee Lee on Sunday in the final event before the U.S. Women’s Open next week at Olympic in San Francisco.

“Really tired,” Jutanugarn said. “I haven’t played 36 holes for so long.”

In the other semifinal, Sophia Popov will play Shanshan Feng. Popov beat ANA Inspiration winner Patty Tavatanakit 3 and 2, and Feng finished off Eun-Hee Ji with a birdie putt from about 60 feet on the 19th hole.

“I was very happy that the putt finally fell in the hole,” Feng said.

Ewing, then known by her maiden name of McDonald, also held off Kang in late October in Florida at Reynolds Lake Oconee for her lone LPGA Tour victory. On Saturday with U.S. Solheim Cup captain Pat Hurst looking on, she rebounded on the par-5 18th after Kang pulled even with a birdie win on the par-3 17th.

“I knew if I gave Danielle any open door she would capitalize, as she did all day,” Ewing said. “Thankfully, I rolled that putt in and sealed it.”

An ambassador for course owner MGM Resorts, Kang missed a chance to advance to the final day in her home event.

“I’m really excited about where my golf game is headed,” Kang said. “I definitely took a little detour for the last few months. About a week ago I felt like everything is starting to come together. It showed this week.”

Ewing birdied all the even-numbered holes on the back nine.

“I rely a lot on my ball-striking, but you’ve got to be able to putt in match play,” Ewing said. “Danielle is a great putter. She’s a clutch putter. We saw that several times today. Thank goodness I was able to match her several times and close it out.”

Ewing rallied to beat Jenny Coleman in 19 holes in the morning in the round of 16. The 28-year-old former Mississippi State player birdied the 18th to pull even with Coleman and won with a par of the first extra hole.

Popov eliminated second-ranked Inbee Park in 20 holes in the morning, then headed back out to face another major champion in Tavatanakit in the afternoon.

“Obviously, the heat takes a toll on you.” Popov said. “I’m not going to lie. I can’t wait to put my feet up and do it all again tomorrow.”

Jutanugarn beat Sarah Schmelzel on the first hole of a playoff Friday to advance, then topped Anna Nordqvist 4 and 3 in the morning.

Feng played 41 holes Saturday, She beat Brittany Altomare in 22 holes in the morning, tying the match on 18.

“I never played 41 holes in my life. Never,” Feng said. “I think 36 was the most, like for U.S. Open qualifier.”

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