Shin Ji-yai of South Korea and 15-year-old amateur Lydia Ko both shot rounds of three-under 70 yesterday to surge six shots clear of the field heading into the final day of the Women’s Australian Open.
South Korean-born, New Zealand-based Ko jumped to an early lead at Royal Canberra with birdies on the second, fourth and sixth holes. She allowed Shin to retake a share of the lead with bogeys on No. 12 and 14 before making another birdie on the final hole to finish 17-under on 202.
“When I was coming down the 18th I wasn’t pretty happy with what happened, there were a couple more birdie opportunities that I did miss, so I said ‘Lydia just have a birdie down the last hole and just be happy with that hole,’” Ko said.
“I guess it worked, it’s quite mentally hurtful when you do make bogeys along the way after you’ve been playing pretty good,” she said.
Two-time British Open-winner Shin kept pace, making an eagle out of the green-side bunker on the par-5 sixth, but gave up a chance of an outright lead when she had a bogey on the penultimate hole.
“I was too short to watch the eagle,” Shin joked. “First day and second day I made a good birdie with that hole so I was thinking I had a chance to birdie, but I was surprised it was in.”
Third-placed Beatriz Recari of Spain had a 71.
Top-ranked Taiwanese star Yani Tseng also hit a 71 to finish a stroke back with a group of five players at nine under, along with overnight leader Mariajo Uribe of Colombia who shot a forgettable 79. They were joined by France’s Gwladys Nocera, who was the day’s best performer with a round of 65.
Stacy Lewis of the US, last year’s LPGA Player of the Year, was 10-strokes off the lead after a 69, while four-time tournament champion Karrie Webb also shot 69 to sit another stroke back.
Ko said she was looking forward to the challenge of going head-to-head with Shin in the final round.
“I’ve seen her play before at the Canadian Open and then on TV,” she said. “She’s a pretty accurate player off the tee, so in that way we could be pretty similar. She’s a great player and there are things that I do need to learn from her.”
Shin said the leading pair realistically only have each other to worry about, though the low scoring of the opening three rounds mean a late challenger cannot be ruled out.
“This makes it comfortable for us because we just focus — I just focus about her score and she also just kept looking at my score,” Shin said.
“But this course has a lot of chance to birdie, a lot of par 5s, so I’m still keep watching for other players. First day Lydia hit a 10 under, I hit an 8 under, so all players had a chance to make the lower scores,” she said.
Taiwan’s Amy Hung goes into today’s final round tied for 51st on 216.
Additional reporting by Staff writer