SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Jang Ha-na will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the HSBC Women’s Champions after the in-form Korean edged ahead of her playing partners on Saturday to remain on course for a second LPGA title in her last four starts.
Jang shot a four-under-par 68 to move to 12-under for the tournament, one ahead of Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum and two clear of joint overnight leader Lee Mi-rim and Amy Yang as Koreans filled three of the top four spots on the leaderboard.
Ariya Jutanugarn, Brooke Henderson, Stacy Lewis and Suzann Petterson are in a group of six players four shots off the lead but they will most likely need to shoot in the low 60s on Sunday if they are to overhaul the supremely consistent Jang.
“I may try and be a little more aggressive tomorrow,” Jang said in a post-round interview. “But I need to stay confident and comfortable and be proud. I talk to myself on every hole, say ‘keep going, don’t think about it, just play golf’.”
The 23-year-old made history in January when she became the first golfer on the LPGA to score a hole-in-one on a par-four in the Bahamas and followed that up with her first win on the circuit in Florida early last month.
Jang secured two top-10 finishes in the subsequent events and has gone bogey-free on the testing Serapong Course since the 14th hole of her first round with an exemplary display of ball-striking from tee to green.
One a day of low scoring despite windy conditions, the final group of Jang, Lee and Pornanong matched each other shot-for-shot on the front nine to stay ahead of the chasing pack at the $1.5 million restricted-field event.
The pivotal hole of the day was the par-four 13th when Jang’s exquisite approach led to a routine birdie as Lee paid the price for a wayward second shot, with her bogey leaving her two adrift of the leader as the pair parred the last five holes.
Pornanong was scrambling to stay in touch and rebounded well after a bogey on the 11th with two birdies coming in, including on the par-five 18th, to move within a shot of the lead as the Thai chases a first LPGA victory since joining the tour in 2009.
“I need to prepare mentally for tomorrow before I head out on the course,” the 26-year-old said. “I have to be ready and like today, try not to think too much out there.”
Yang stormed into the final group on Sunday, at Lee’s expense, when she went on a back-nine birdie blitz after a disappointing start, the two-time tour winner registering five birdies over the last eight holes to rocket up the leaderboard.
“I never gave up,” Yang admitted. “It was a little frustrating but I just kept trying and it was great to finish with 31 on the back nine.”
Reporting by John O'Brien; editing by Sudipto Ganguly