World No. 1 Yani Tseng (曾雅妮) fired a near-flawless six-under-par 66 in the third round of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship yesterday, but it was still not good enough to keep pace with leader Inbee Park of South Korea.
Tseng, who entered the third round two shots off the pace, behind Park and Suzann Pettersen of Norway, finished the day in third place at 14-under, four shots out of the lead, after a round of four birdies and one eagle without a single bogey.
Tseng said the 66 was the best she could have scored under the circumstances.
“I missed some short putts out there and didn’t hit quite close to the pin and left lots of birdies out there,” Tseng said.
The putt that especially stung was a missed four-footer on the par-five 18th, which left her even further behind the machine-like Park, who shot a course record 64 for a three-round total of 18-under-par 198. The large crowd packed around the 18th green let out a huge groan after Tseng’s miss, a putt that left her visibly frustrated, but she still held out hope she could defend her title with a comeback today.
“[The round] was still good for me and hopefully tomorrow I’ll still be aggressive with the same strategy and try to make birdie every hole,” said Tseng, who birdied holes 1, 2, 6 and 12 and eagled the par-five 13th. Pettersen was in second at 16-under after also shooting a six-under 66, and Catriona Matthew of Scotland was in fourth at 12 under par. The 24-year-old Park fired two eagles and five birdies, including a birdie on the 18th hole that won her a big round of applause from the spectators, with some describing her as a “putting machine.” She carded one bogey.
“I think today probably was almost perfect for me,” the world No. 5 said after the round. “I hit the ball great and putted it really good today.”
Park also praised the performance of Pettersen, who was paired with her and Matthew in the final group yesterday.
“She played really fantastic, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” she said.
Without its customary wind, the Sunrise Golf & Country Club course was defenseless for a second consecutive day, leading to a birdiefest in which 31 of the 76 players in the field shot rounds in the 60s. Tseng, who has found a return to form the past two weeks in Asia after a prolonged slump, may not be able to keep up with the unflappable Park if the weather remains calm during today’s final round, so she is hoping that the golf gods will conjure up some wind to give the course some bite and give her an edge.
“This is where I practice, so I think if the wind picks up, it’s going to help me a lot,” said Tseng, who trained on and off for six years at the club and is extremely familiar with its wind patterns.
Meanwhile, world No. 7 Pettersen, who carded six birdies without a bogey, may not be hoping for a windy day today, but is certainly not afraid of one.
“I actually think tomorrow is going to be the windiest over the three days. So bring it on,” the 31-year-old said. “I like challenge. I feel like I’m in a good spot.”
Tseng, Park and Pettersen will comprise the final group today. The winner of the US$2 million tournament will earn US$300,000.