Saturday, 23 February, Pattaya – The battle for the lead in the Honda LPGA Thailand 2019 ladies golf tournament went to a nail-biting finishing on the 18th hole on Saturday with two players birdying the final hole to share the top spot on the leaderboard.
South Korean Amy Yang and Australian Minjee Lee both finished the day on 15-under par after three rounds to lead the field into the final day at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course on Sunday.
The Perth-born Lee knocked in six birdies and had only one bogey for a five-under 67 in her third round, which included a stunning 30-foot downhill putt for birdie on the final hole.
“It was really hot out there, probably a little more than yesterday, but the play was moving along so it was okay,” Lee told the media after her round. “I feel I played really solid. In the seven-week break, we worked on my technique and trying to get my swing a little faster. I’m not sure if that really worked – when I got out there today I just found a place I was comfortable and went with that.”
Joint leader Amy Yang said: “I had a good day out there and I hit a lot of solid shots and made a lot of good putts. I’m a little nervous to be in the lead and I might get nervous out there tomorrow, but I’m just going to be patient and do my best.”
Ranked 7th in the LPGA rankings, Lee turned professional in 2014 and represented Australia at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. She finished 2018 ranked second on the LPGA money list and second in the LPGA scoring averages.
The 29th ranked Yang had a bogey-free round on Saturday and carded six birdies to finish with a 66.
World number one Ariya Jutanugarn was the best of the eight-strong Thai contingent during Saturday’s third round, finishing tied in 13th place on 8-under par overall. Ariya had five birdies and one bogey in Saturday’s third round, which was played in hot, steamy conditions with little wind.
Ariya’s four-under round put her in a tie in 13th place with elder sister Moriya, who carded a one-under on Saturday.
“I played well in the first nine, and putted well. But on the back nine I was not so good and missed some putts,” she said after finishing her round. “I was in the same group today as [China’s] Muni He and she has a big fan following and all the attention was on her. That was good for me. I need to practice my putting and try to play better tomorrow.”
China’s Muni He, a popular player with both the fans and media, spoke to the press before signing hats, shirts and taking selfies with her army of supporters.
“I had another eagle today. I hit an amazing approach shot and the crowd let me know it finished close. I just walked up and tapped it in,” she said. Muni He finished her third round on four-under and was tied in 26th place. She had an eagle and three birdies during her third round, but four bogeys pushed her down the leaderboard.
“I’m really happy to come back to Thailand and try to redeem myself from last year. Hopefully tomorrow I can get a few more birdies and move up the leaderboard a little bit,” she added.
South Korean Jenny Shin thrilled the large crowd at the 18th hole on Saturday when she chipped in from about 150 yards, drawing a huge cheer as the ball bounced twice before disappearing into the hole. Shin had an eagle and two birdies to end the day in third place.
American star Nelly Korda, who won last week’s Australian Open and whose sister is the defending champion of the Thai event, set the course alight on Saturday with seven birdies and only one bogey to finish in joint fourth place on 12-under.
The final round starts on Sunday morning and large crowds are expected at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course in Chonburi province. With so many of the world’s best women players in top form, the final round promises to be an exciting one. The Thai players, especially world number one Ariya and her sister Moriya, will be hoping the home crowd and the familiar conditions work in their favour during the final round.
The Honda LPGA Thailand 2019 is organized by IMG with Honda Automobile (Thailand) Co., Ltd as the title sponsor, and supported by many partners including the Sports Tourism Authority of Thailand, National Sports Development Fund (NSDF), Tourism Authority of Thailand, Betagro Group, Siam Daikin Sales Co., Ltd, EVA Airways Corporation, Siam GS Sales Co., Ltd, etc. Officially broadcasting the Honda LPGA Thailand 2019 will be MCOT Channel 30.