World No.3 Stacy Lewis, halfway leader Ha Na Jang hot in pursuit two shots back in second KUALA LUMPUR
American darling Jessica Korda fired a bogey-free third round of 65 to carve out a two-shot lead, at 12-under-par, going into tomorrow’s finale in the sixth edition of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. Bearing identical front nine scores with birdies on holes 1, 2, 6 and 7, Korda and countrywoman Stacy Lewis went on to slam two more birdies on the back nine at holes 12 and 14, and 10 and 17, respectively.
However, Korda’s six-under start today on top of rounds of 67 and 69 on Thursday and Friday helped propel her to the top of the standings. The tournament’s halfway leader, Korea’s 23-year-old Ha Na Jang (67-65) managed an even-par 71 in round three, offsetting four birdies against two bogeys and an unfortunate double bogey at the par-three 15th, to finish tied in joint second place with Lewis.
“We had a lot fun out there. I played with Lydia (Ko) and Haru (Nomura) and just had a good time. I'm pretty sure people walking with us were wondering why we were cracking up so much on the golf course! I think for all of us the birdies were just rolling in, so you can't ever complain about a day like today,” laughed the 22-year-old Florida native.
Asked if she had changed her game recently, she added, “I changed swing coaches, I changed my approach a little bit to things. I think a lot of it just had to do with growing up as well. It's been such a long time and I'm so happy - I'm very pleased to be back on top of the leader board. I definitely wasn't expecting all my hard work to be paying off this quickly first week out in the Asian swing, but I'll take it wherever I can.” With only one top-10 finish to her name this year, Korda will be looking to notch her first win of the season.
Meanwhile, three players – World No. 2 Lydia Ko, defending champ Shanshan Feng and firstround co-leader Xi Yu Lin, lurk one shot further back in joint fourth on nine-under-par, while the oriental quartet comprising Japan’s Mika Miyazato, Chinese Taipei’s Yani Tseng, and Koreans I.K. Kim, Amy Yang and World No.1 Inbee Park, occupy joint seventh, a further stroke adrift.
Commenting on the tight leader board with players snugly tied and separated by margins of only one shot between them, the current World No.3 Lewis said: “I don't know what it is about this tournament! Seems like every year it's a stacked leader board. You have a lot of good winners here. It's a golf course you got to hit good shots on, and that's what you see. And it is fun to have that many good players in the mix.” On the national front, Kelly Tan remained the top-placed Malaysian on five-over-par (70-74-74) in joint 58th together with Chinese Taipei’s 20-year-old rookie Min Lee. The other four Malaysian Angels continue to hover in the 70s in the 75-player field, with Michelle Koh carding rounds of (77-75-77), Cindy Lee-Pridgen (74-80-79) and Nur Durriyah Damian (79-71-83) and Ainil Bakar (80-81-73) a shot further back.
Amidst all the on-course excitement today, players and spectators were seen donning splashes of varying shades of pink in solidarity for Pink Saturday, which highlights breast cancer awareness via the tournament’s charitable partner, Cancer Research Malaysia. In addition, offcourse activities such as the Konica Minolta Chip-4-Charity and the new Courtyard marquee saw plenty of action with streams of visitors enjoying the entertainment, while the KL Food Truck Festival, housing six of the capital’s faves, continuously rolled out delicious treats to hungry patrons. With the on-course action hotting up and an announcement that the tournament will return in 2016 made earlier in the day, the scene is perfectly set for a thrilling Sunday.
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photos Janos Schmidt
photos Janos Schmidt