Jennifer Kupcho made history at Augusta National. She’s positioned to do the same at Mission Hills

jennifer kupcho swings

Jennifer Kupcho's third-round 64 gives her a six-shot lead at Mission Hills — and the chance to make the last leap into Poppie's Pond.

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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Jennifer Kupcho has yet to win on the LPGA Tour, but that doesn’t mean she’s inexperienced on the biggest stage.

Three years ago this week, Kupcho won at perhaps the grandest stage in golf — Augusta National. Her victory at the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur was as iconic as it was enthralling. It was an exclamation-point victory that cemented the then-Wake Forest senior’s place as one of the top amateurs in the sport.

Now in her third year on the LPGA Tour, Kupcho has a chance to earn an equally monumental victory. This time, at the Chevron Championship — the last played at iconic Mission Hills Country Club.

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“It’s really special just to be out here,” Kupcho said. “I love this place. I love stepping on property. You just get positive vibes.”

On a day when the top contenders were stuck in neutral (or went backward), Kupcho put the pedal to the floor. From her opening tee shot, the round had the makings of something special — a fitting omen on the morning the newest ANWA champion was crowned.

“I got to watch ANWA, so that was pretty cool, and just bring back those good memories,” Kupcho said. “I don’t know if that was positive vibes, but definitely did watch that. I think it helped to get my mind off this tournament by watching.”

Those positive vibes carried over to the course as Kupcho put together one of the finest rounds of golf the Dinah Shore Tournament Course has ever seen. Her eight-under 64 is two off the course record, and the lowest round of the week by two shots. She holds a six-shot lead heading into Sunday.

How did she play such beautiful Moving Day golf? She pointed to the oldest cliche in golf — taking it one shot at a time. That and a red-hot putter.

Kupcho needed just 25 putts to get around Mission Hills on Saturday, and her confidence grew with every make.

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The 24-year-old began the day one shot behind the 36-hole leaders, but with birdies on four of her first five holes, she quickly took control of the tournament. Kupcho added a birdie at the 8th and then ripped off three in a row to begin her back nine.

“I was just playing my game,” Kupcho said. “Taking it one shot at a time, not thinking about anything in particular.”

She might not have been thinking about anything in particular, but the rest of the golf world sure was. How low can she go? The course record of 62 was suddenly within reach — not to mention an outside chance at 59.

But just as the impossible started to seem feasible, Kupcho (finally) made bogey. The square on the scorecard at No. 13 derailed her chance at history, but it didn’t halt her momentum for long. It was the last mistake she made all day. She added another birdie at the 17th and signed for a tidy 64.

Her three-round total of 200 is the lowest ever in the 50-year history of the event.

“Everything was working,” Kupcho said.

If everything keeps working on Sunday, a date with Poppie’s Pond awaits.

Kupcho made history as the first woman to win at Augusta National. She has a chance to make a little more history at Mission Hills.

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