WEST CALDWELL, N.J. – Is Maria Fassi back?
When Fassi had her breakout moment on the national golf stage at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the potential for what she might achieve as a professional seemed limitless. But upon joining the LPGA in 2019, on the heels of her megawatt performance at Augusta National, Fassi struggled. She recorded just a single top-10 finish in her first two seasons on the LPGA and missed the cut in 10 of her first 11 events of 2021 while also missing seven weeks during that span because of left-knee surgery.
But on Saturday morning, Fassi made a call to her mother. It was a call to let her know that her daughter, the one who went toe-to-toe with Jennifer Kupcho before finishing a close second at Augusta National, had returned.
“I was like, ‘Hey, I think I remembered how to play golf,’” Fassi told her mother.
It was a call that affirmed what golf fans witnessed during the final round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic last Sunday, when Fassi mounted a charge with a final-round 64 to earn her first top-5 finish on tour. Fassi rode that momentum into this week’s Cognizant Founders Cup, where she sits T-6 heading into Sunday’s final round.
“Very happy with the way that my game is right now,” Fassi said Saturday afternoon. “I'm hitting the ball very good. I just got to keep doing what I'm doing.”
Fassi’s renewed sense of self has given her the confidence to take new risks on the golf course.
While Fassi was making a run up the leaderboard on Saturday, she arrived at the par 3 16th hole with a chance to make her fifth birdie on the back nine. But Fassi pulled her tee shot left of the hole. She was left with a delicate second shot that would require a deft touch that would keep the ball from running well past the hole. Fassi elected to putt the ball from 15 feet off the putting surface. Her first putt came up well short of the green after getting caught up in the rough. She elected to putt the ball for a second time which safely made it on the green, leaving Fassi with a putt for bogey.
“I thought it was just the higher percentage shot, and I knew that maybe I wasn't going to make par but it was definitely going to keep me from making a double,” Fassi explained about the club selection. “At the end of the day, that's where I want to be.”
Fassi walked away with a four on the hole but compounded the error with a double bogey at the next hole. She rebounded with a birdie at the last hole to sit six strokes back of leader Jin Young Ko heading into Sunday’s final round.
“I can't control what she does or what anybody else does,” Fassi said about Ko. “I can only control what I'm doing and I think we just got to be very tidy on all 18 holes and give it our best and we'll see after 18 where I fall. Definitely going to be an exciting round for sure.”
One of the last times Maria Fassi did Maria Fassi things on the golf course, it made for one of the most thrilling events in the long history of Augusta National. She, of course, followed with the 2019 NCAA individual title and a T-12 at the U.S. Women's Open shortly after.
A repeat of those spirited performances is just what Fassi needs to give herself a chance of catching Ko and capturing her first pro win on Sunday.