Defending champion Choi Na-yeon kept her lead yesterday at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, while fellow South Korean Park In-bee lit up the greens with a flawless 65 to move into contention.
Choi, who won the tournament last year and has led from the opening day, finished with a 68 for a total score of 13-under 200 at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
More than four hours play was lost due to a thunderstorm, but Choi managed to maintain her lead despite being tired out by the rain.
“I don’t really like being in the lead as there is more pressure. I prefer to play catch up and make my move in the last round,” said Choi, who bagged her first Major when she triumphed at the US Women’s Open earlier this year.
“I was feeling the pressure a bit as it has been a long day, what with the four-hour delay and all. All day long it has been raining. It’s tiring,” she said.
Choi had a lone bogey on the 10th hole. She started the day brilliantly, sinking a putt on the first to set the pace. She then had three more birdies on the fifth, 12th and 16th holes.
However, the day belonged to Park. With a three-day score of 11-under 202, the 24-year-old moved up from joint-12th to lie just two strokes behind Choi.
Park had a hot putter on the back nine, returning to continue her round after the rain delay to reel off six birdies on the 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes.
“I think I play much better in the rain ... I much prefer the rain than the heat,” she said.
“My putting on the front nine was very disappointing even though I had some chances for birdies. It picked up after the rain and I managed to sink a few of them,” Park said.
Australian veteran Karrie Webb is four strokes behind Choi and said her final birdie had given her a slight chance of catching her.
“The putt on the last gets me that little bit closer,” said the 38-year-old, who had five birdies and two bogeys to round off her day.
“I feel great going into the final round and it all depends how well Choi plays tomorrow,” she said.
World No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan had her first sub-par round of the tournament with a three-under 68, but is tied for 53rd with a three-day score of five-over 218.
The US$1.9 million tournament, which features a star-studded cast of LPGA golfers, ends today.
It opens the tour’s four-event Asian swing. The HanaBank Championship is scheduled for next week in South Korea, followed by stops in Taiwan and Japan.