Last week at the Dana Open, Maria Fassi teed off around the same time as compatriot Gaby Lopez – off the back nine. The open layout at Highland Meadows allowed Fassi to see more than a few fist-pumps and walk-in putts from her friend and fellow Razorback en route to victory.
One week later, Fassi found herself playing in the final group on Sunday for the first time in her career at the new Kroger Queen City Championship in Cincinnati.
Fassi poured in three consecutive birdies on Nos. 10-12 to apply pressure to Ally Ewing and Xiyu Lin at Kenwood Country Club.
“I think it backfired,” said Fassi, “because I pissed them off a little bit too much.”
Ewing responded with five consecutive birdies on Nos. 12-16, and Lin made four birdies over the last seven holes.
Fassi’s closing 71 put her at 16 under for the tournament, six back of Ewing. The third-place finish marked Fassi’s career-best solo finish since she joined the tour in 2019.
Fassi came into the week ranked 96th on the CME points list and vaulted up to 67th. The top 100 keep their card for 2023 and the top 60 play in the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida.
“It’s huge,” she said. “I mean, I’ve been with my back against the ropes all freaking year, so it’s pretty cool to at least, you know, be able to take a breather and be in a better place than I’ve been all year.”
Stacy Lewis and teammate Maria Fassi walk toward the fourth hole at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational at Midland Country Club in Midland, Michigan. (Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Fassi birdied five of the last six holes on Friday to shoot 66 and carry great momentum into the weekend. She needed only 26 putts in the first two rounds and averaged 27 putts per round for the week, a significant improvement over her 30.28 average.
The soft conditions at Kenwood gave the explosive Fassi a distinct advantage, as she carried much of the trouble at the water-logged course. She averaged 300 yards off the tee for the week and leads the tour with a 278 average.
On Saturday, while wearing her Saturday Razorback red, Fassi unleashed a few fiery fist pumps of her own after holing a flop shot for eagle on the par-5 15th.
“I was in it,” said Fassi. “I was fighting. I told (my caddie) Gary on the 18th hole, I said, ‘We went down fighting.’ I got outplayed, and all I can do is clap and be happy for them.”
Coming into the week, Fassi had eight missed cuts in 13 starts on the season. Her lone top-30 finish came at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, where she played with partner Stacy Lewis for a second straight year and finished third.
In Cincinnati, with the clock running out on the season, Fassi tried not to make the week any “bigger than it already is.” The former NCAA champion came onto the LPGA shouldering great expectations but hasn’t yet lived up to her vast potential.
“I think there has been a lot of learning strategically,” said Fassi. “Definitely playing Dow with Stacy last couple of years has been huge for me, just to see the way she approaches the game and see what’s the difference and what got her to be No. 1 in the world and what got her to win so many tournaments.
“I think we’re trending in the right direction. I just got to keep doing that, keep doing me, and worry about the rest when it’s time for that.”