By ERIC WILLEMSEN, Associated Press
KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia (AP) — Ted Ligety of the United States won the season's next-to-last World Cup giant slalom Saturday.
The giant slalom champion in 2008, '10 and '11, Ligety trails leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria, who finished third, by 92 points with one race remaining next week in Schladming, Austria.
With a victory worth 100 points, Ligety must win the final race and hope Hirscher doesn't score points.
"It's a lot to make up. I need Hirscher to do what I have done — I made some mistakes," Ligety said. "Most of the time, everybody goes out one race or has one major mistake and he hasn't done that so far this year. If he does that, I am right back in it."
Ligety built on his commanding first-run lead to finish in an aggregate time of 2 minutes, 22.47 seconds to beat second-place Alexis Pinturault of France by 1.61. Hirscher was 2.03 behind.
Beat Feuz of Switzerland, who failed to qualify for the second run, remains in the overall lead with 1,250 points, 55 ahead of Hirscher.
"It's my biggest wish to win a globe," said Hirscher, who missed the final part of last season with a broken foot. "But before the season, I never expected to have this wonderful season."
Ligety earned his 11th career win — all in GS — and his fourth victory on the Podkoren course to tie the record of Austria's Benjamin Raich on this hill.
Defending champion Ivica Kostelic of Croatia earned six points for finishing 25th and has 1,049 points.
Kostelic struggled on his return after almost four weeks out because of knee surgery. The Croat complained about back problems, which prevented him from fully attacking.
"My back hurt during warmups and my physiotherapist worked on me until the last minute before the start," Kostelic said after the first run. "If your knee is not OK, it can harm other parts of your body."
Kostelic seemed to hold back in his second run to avoid the risk of skiing out.
Feuz has been battling a left knee injury for weeks and will undergo surgery after the season. He said he didn't expect to score points.
"It was more of a practice run for me," Feuz said. "My knee was just fine during the race. I will take some rest now before downhill training on Tuesday."
Ligety was in full control of the race after a blistering first run. In his final run, his lead at the second intermediate time even topped the 2-second mark.
"There is no such thing as a perfect run," Ligety said. "I definitely could have been faster, but I could have been a lot slower, too. I am pretty happy with coming down as clean as I was top to bottom."
The American won two of the first three GS races this season but lost ground to Hirscher in the next four outings before hitting back Saturday in convincing style, posting the fastest times in both runs.
"In the last couple of races, I didn't feel like having the right intensity." Ligety said. "In my first run I skied mad in a sense, I was just going as hard I could all the way down."
Ligety said he was not surprised by his leading margin.
"I've had races this year that I should have won by that much," Ligety said. "I've had runs where I put large margins on people, but this is the first time I really had a good run top to bottom."
The second run was interrupted for over 20 minutes after Florian Eisath of Italy broke his left upper arm at a crash and had to be brought down the hill on a sled. Eisath was thrown off course and landed badly on his left arm and shoulder before sliding into the safety nets.
A men's slalom on the same course is scheduled for Sunday.
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