2016 HSBC Women’s Champions

Golf: No Jang-ling nerves here

South Korean Jang Ha Na sharing a light-hearted moment with her caddy at the Sentosa Golf Club. After the third round of the HSBC Women's Champions yesterday, the world No. 10 is one stroke ahead of Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum going into today's fin
South Korean Jang Ha Na sharing a light-hearted moment with her caddy at the Sentosa Golf Club. After the third round of the HSBC Women's Champions yesterday, the world No. 10 is one stroke ahead of Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum going into today's final round.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

South Korean's steady display puts her in the frame to claim HSBC crown

Statistics in golf rarely portray the full picture but in the case of Jang Ha Na's week at this year's HSBC Women's Champions, the numbers are everything.

The South Korean is second in greens in regulation (83.3 per cent), leads the field in driving accuracy (missing just four fairways) and has made the fewest bogeys - two - among the 62 players.

Her pristine scorecard yesterday featured four birdies and a four-under 68. That 204 total gave the overnight co-leader the outright lead at the Sentosa Golf Club and put the world No. 10 in prime position to capture her second LPGA Tour title in as many months.

 

Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum, who has yet to win in her seven years on tour, is one stroke back in second on 205 after matching Jang's score. South Koreans Amy Yang (68) and Lee Mi Rim (70) were joint-third on 206.

Jang, 23, has not dropped a shot since her 14th hole on Thursday. But as close to perfect as her game has been at the Serapong Course, she still wants more.

She said: "I may try and be a little more aggressive tomorrow. 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'."

Nerves will be very much on Pornanong's mind as she attempts to become her country's first LPGA winner. Seven top-three finishes in the past three years suggest that the 26-year-old, ranked 34th in the world, is close to that breakthrough.

She said: "I just need to try and relax and be ready for tomorrow. Last time I thought too much and tried to be perfect, but you cannot be perfect."

It was however, a perfect finish for Yang, 26, after a poor start that left her one over after 10 holes. Five birdies for a 31 on the back nine, including three straight from the 16th, drove her up the leaderboard and into today's final flight alongside Jang and Pornanong.

The world No. 7 said: "It was kind of frustrating but I never gave up... Every shot tomorrow will be important."

American Stacy Lewis, the 2013 champion, knows how cruel Sundays can be. She has nine runner-up finishes in the last 20 winless months and will start the day four shots back after a 68 left her tied-fifth on 208 with five others.

The two-time Major winner said: "A low score is out there. I'm going to need it tomorrow."

Top-ranked Lydia Ko of New Zealand had her best round of the US$1.5 million (S$2.11 million) tournament and signed for a 67 that moved her up to joint-20th on 212.

An 11th LPGA career victory is unlikely, but she saw enough positives in her recovery after earlier rounds of 71 and 74.

Ko, who has been battling a cold, drove the ball longer, hit more fairways and greens and had fewer putts and no bogeys.

She said: "I hit the ball much better and got a few putts to go in. I was scrambling well."

Meanwhile, Singapore's Koh Sock Hwee was battling to end the Republic's unwanted record of finishing last in all eight previous editions. She shot a 74 and is tied-58th.

At the opposite end with different ambitions was Jang. She was focused on a single figure.

Number one.

HSBC WOMEN'S CHAMPIONS DAY 4
Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209 and MediaCorp okto, 11.30am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 06, 2016, with the headline 'NO JANG-LING NERVES HERE'. Print Edition | Subscribe