Koreans chasing Feng till the end

Feng Shanshan putting on the third hole of the third round at Trump National. Eight golfers are within five shots of the Chinese world No. 6.
Feng Shanshan putting on the third hole of the third round at Trump National. Eight golfers are within five shots of the Chinese world No. 6.PHOTO: REUTERS

Final-hole birdie gives Chinese golfer slight edge as she battles putting woes late in round

BEDMINSTER (New Jersey) • Saturday at the US Women's Open was all about defence. The Trump National Golf Club course zealously protected par, while ground and air personnel assiduously worked to keep the First Fan, US President Donald Trump, safe.

Of the 62 players who survived the 36-hole cut, 22 are under par for the tournament heading into the final final round. Everyone is chasing China's Feng Shanshan, who posted a one-under 71 for a 54-hole total of nine-under 207 in her bid for a wire-to-wire victory.

The group under par surprisingly includes American Cristie Kerr, who carded a 70 to move into a tie for eighth place at 212, a day after back spasms nearly led her to withdraw.

But it shockingly does not include Stacy Lewis (76), who made four consecutive birdies starting at the seventh hole to move to within one shot of the lead, at seven under, only to play the final eight holes in nine over and finish on 218.

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Feng snapped a run of 23 consecutive pars with a birdie at the 18th hole to reclaim the lead over a wave of South Korean challengers.

She broke a three-way tie with a three-foot birdie putt after missing chances from 10 feet and twice from 12 feet in the closing holes.

Amy Yang (70) and 17-year-old amateur Choi Hye Jin (70) were tied one stroke back, with long-hitting Korean compatriot Park Sung Hyun (67), a seven-time winner on the Korean LPGA Tour last year, two shots further back.

Three other South Koreans, world No. 1 Ryu So Yeon (71), Lee Mi Rim (67) and Lee Jeong Eun (73), were another stroke back at 211.

Feng was frustrated by her putting until the par-five last hole. "Putting didn't really work today," said the Chinese world No. 6, winner of seven LPGA Tour events including the 2012 LPGA Championship. "I just couldn't get the line and the speed together.

"And then I was like, 'let's go to Plan B'... try to hit the ball closer to the holes so I don't need to worry about making the putts. And 16 and 17 I hit great shots into the green but I guess they weren't close enough so I still missed them. Then on 18th I was like, 'let's hit them little more closer' and I hit it to three feet and finally I made a putt. That birdie made my day."

Feng was caught late in the round by Yang and Hye Jin.

Yang, a top-four finisher in the last three Women's Opens, rolled in a 20-foot left-to-right birdie curler at the 17th hole, while No. 2-ranked amateur Hye Jin sank a long birdie putt at the par-three 16th hole.

Yang, 27, said all her near misses at the championship would not get her down. "I'll keep trying... I'm going to do the same things and see what happens," she said.

Hye Jin said being paired with Yang had been a big help.

"She is definitely an experienced player," the teenager said.

NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2017, with the headline 'Koreans chasing Feng till the end'. Print Edition | Subscribe