Sole leader Jang Ha Na shows nerves of steel
Leader responds to adversity by 'singing inside my mind'
Her 1.72 putt-per-hole stat so far this week is good enough for only a bottom-half joint-38th place in the putting average category.
Despite that, South Korean golfer Jang Ha Na has broken clear at the top of the HSBC Women's Champions leaderboard, where she sits one shot clear of Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum, with her three-round 12-under total of 204.
Yesterday at Sentosa Golf Club, the self-dubbed Ha-Na-Giser (left) was supercharged as she recorded yet another blemish-free round, a four-under 68, to make it 40 holes without a bogey on the challenging Serapong Course this week.
Full of fist pumps and funny facial expressions, she hit all 14 fairways and made 17 greens in regulation and, while she did miss some birdie opportunities, Jang showed her winning temperament.
While some would scowl, curse, or even break their club when they make a bad shot, Jang's response to adversity - for example when compatriot Lee Mi Rim took over the lead after the ninth hole - is "singing inside my mind".
Sure enough, Jang regained the lead with a birdie at the next hole as Lee bogeyed.
"Sometimes a little miss on the green, but it's okay. One more day, no problem," said Jang. "My fan club has come from South Korea, which gives me more power, more energy, more joy and more fun."
Perhaps it's easier to sing when you are winning.
Last month, she ended a six-year title drought on the LPGA Tour by winning the Coates Golf Championship.
And, in January, she became the first LPGA golfer to make a hole-in-one on a par-four - the 218-yard eighth hole during the third round of the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic.
But it seems possible that Jang happens to be a really nice girl, as she dismissed talk of a rivalry with Pornanong, who is bidding to be the first Thai winner on the LPGA Tour.
She said: "I'm going to enjoy playing tomorrow with Pornanong because she is my close friend.
"I'm not going to think about another player and her score. I know how to play and score. I talk to myself, just keep going. Ha Na, just keep playing golf. I trust myself, no problem."
Pornanong also shot a 68 to get to 11 under, and the 26-year-old will also have a strong backing in the gallery in the form of her brother and former caddie Pornpong.
She said: "It's my first season without (Pornpong) on the bag and I do miss him. I always talk to him at night and he said he's going to come support me tomorrow."
South Koreans Amy Yang and Lee are both tied for third on 10 under, but Thailand produced another surprise when 20-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn carded a 66 for the day's best score to make up the sextet on eight under, including Brooke Henderson, Choi Na Yeon, Chella Choi, Suzann Pettersen and 2013 winner Stacy Lewis.
- 204: Jang Ha Na 70-66-68
- 205: Pornanong Phatlum 70-67-68
- 206: Amy Yang 71-67-68, Lee Mi Rim 69-67-70
- 208: Ariya Jutanugarn 73-69-66, Brooke Henderson 70-71-67, Stacy Lewis 71-69-68, Choi Na Yeon 70-70-68, Chella Choi 70-70-68, Suzann Pettersen 68-69-71
- 210: Paula Creamer 72-67-71
- 212: Lydia Ko 71-74-67
- 214: Angela Stanford 70-72-72
- 216: Park Inbee 68-73-75
- 217: Karrie Webb 72-72-73
- 221: Ai Miyazato 72-73-71
- 223: Koh Sock Hwee 76-73-74.
American duo hope to gatecrash party
It is a quirk, and also a testament to the world-class playing roster, that no golfer has managed to win the HSBC Women's Champions twice.
But, this year, two former champions, both Americans, are well-poised to create some history when they tee off for the final round at Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong course today.
Yesterday, world No. 4 Stacy Lewis shrugged off a bogey on the par-three second hole to make birdies on the par-five fourth, seventh and 12th, par-four sixth, 10th and 15th, and par-three eighth.
Despite dropped shots on the par-four 11th and 16th, the 31-year-old's four-under 68 score for a 208 total propelled her to join fifth, four shots behind leader Jang Ha Na of South Korea.
Ohio native Lewis (above) is feeling confident, and told The New Paper: "I haven't played my best golf, and I'm in contention, which is a good sign.
"It was a bit up and down for me today, left a lot out there, a couple of three-putts and not taking advantage of the par-five 18th again (she had made par in all three rounds).
"But any time you shoot under par on this golf course, it is a good score.
"I think a low score is out there, and I'm going to need it tomorrow."
Another former champion here is Paula Creamer, who was in the top 10 until she found the water on the 15th en route to a double-bogey.
The 29-year-old from Florida bounced back with a birdie on the 18th for a one-under 71 and a share of 13th place alongside Spain's Carlota Ciganta, Haru Nomura (Japan) and Feng Shanshan (China) on six-under 210.
"I played a lot better than my score today," said Creamer (above).
"I don't know why no one has won it twice. It is a strong field, but that does not mean it's impossible."
But, if someone can make the improbable a reality, it's got to be the one they call "Pink Panther".
In 2014, she drained a 75-foot eagle putt on her second play-off hole to beat Azahara Munoz for the title here, and that remains her last victory on the LPGA Tour.
"I've had good times and great memories here so if I play good and shoot a low score tomorrow, you'll never know what happens," said Creamer.
"But I'm six strokes behind, so I could sure do with some help from the leader." - DAVID LEE
Koh set for best finish by a Singaporean
Local golf professional Koh Sock Hwee is on track to beat Singapore's best score at the HSBC Women's Champions when she shot a two-over 74 in the third round yesterday for a seven-over 223.
The 26-year-old is tied for 58th place with Colombia's Mariajo Uribe.
Koh (right) shot a 19-over 307 last year and no Singaporean has managed to avoid the wooden spoon in this tournament.
But Koh, who made three birdies against five bogeys yesterday, looks set to buck the trend as she is currently ranked above Melissa Reid, Jane Park and five-time Major winner Tseng Ya-ni.
- DAVID LEE