Top contenders below par

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The world’s top three female golfers managed six birdies, seven bogeys and a double bogey between them yesterday as the Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong Course paid little heed to reputation.

While Lydia Ko, Park In Bee and Lexi Thompson all failed to break par, the blemish-free scorecards of Jang Ha Na and Lee Mi Rim were dotted only with red numbers as the South Korean pair seized the second-round lead at the HSBC Women’s Champions.

Lee fired five birdies for a five-under 67 while Jang went one better with a 66 as both women set the pace with a 136 total.

Thai Pornanong Phatlum (67) and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen (69) were a stroke back at the US$1.5 million (S$2.11 million) tournament. Defending champion and second-ranked Park (73) was tied 20th on 141 while Thompson (72) was joint 31st. World No. 1 Ko (74) was tied 41st and nine strokes off the lead.

There were no secrets to getting to the top, grinned Lee, 25, whose last LPGA Tour win was the Reignwood LPGA Classic in October 2014.

The South Korean, who missed one fairway and needed just 27 putts, said: “I just try to hit it straight, straight, straight and then make, make, make (birdies).”

Compatriot Jang’s 50-foot eagle putt on the 483-yard, par-five seventh was the highlight of her round and continued a whirlwind start to 2016 for the world No. 10.

At January’s Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, she converted an even longer effort from 218 yards with her three-wood. It was the Tour’s first hole-in-one on a par-four. Last month, Jang, 23, won the Coates Golf Championship for her maiden Tour title and celebrated by swinging her putter theatrically before tucking it under her arm like a nunchaku.

She is already working on a new dance move to perform, should victory No. 2 come tomorrow.

“It’s top secret,” giggled the bubbly Seoul native, who draws anime characters on her golf balls.

Jang finished 14th in the 2014 edition and was excited at the prospect of topping that. She said: “I tell myself, ‘Don’t think too much, just be patient, there’s a lot of birdies. Just concentrate for two more days, you can do it.'”

Self-belief had been hard to find for Pettersen, a former world No. 2. Her Manulife LPGA Classic victory last June ended a two-year winless sequence. A third of her 15 Tour titles have come in Asia but frustratingly, none in Singapore, where the 34-year-old has played in all eight editions of the HSBC event.

The world No. 13 said: “It’s still on my bucket list to win so I have (a) job to do in the next two days.”

The weekend task for American Gerina Piller, who shot 68 and is tied fifth two strokes back on 138, is a sizeable one. This is her 149th career start since turning pro in 2007 and she has yet to lift a trophy.

Two runner-up finishes last season, statistically her best year on tour, have stirred the 30-year-old.

She said: “I feel like I’m a better player than I was last year, more confident and just all around better.”

Signs of progress were everywhere for Singaporean Koh Sock Hwee, tied 53rd on 149. Her 73 was a three-stroke improvement from Thursday’s two-birdie round. She said: “I made five birdies today, which I am very happy about.”

HSBC WOMEN’S CHAMPIONS

Day 3: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209 and MediaCorp okto, 11.30am

jonwong@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 5, 2016.
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Saturday, March 5, 2016 – 17:00
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