Korda looking for first top 10 since April
Although it hasn’t been the summer of golf Jessica Korda envisioned, she’s on track for one of her better results of the year at a place where she has had success before.
Korda, who was runner-up at the Blue Bay LPGA in 2016, sits 3-under par through three rounds in China and is tied for sixth.
She shot a 2-under-par 70 on Friday, despite saying the course played ‘ridiculously hard’ during the third round.
“The pins weren't as tough as yesterday, but the wind really, really picked up, and it's really firm. So it's hard to stop the ball on the greens in the right spots, and just a lot of the holes are playing really long,” she said. “I just was able to somewhat minimize my mistakes and just be able to keep the ball in play.”
Korda said the 2017 edition of this tournament is playing a lot harder than last year, as a typhoon is on approach to China resulting in unpredictable winds.
“It's just windier and the greens are firmer, and so it's harder to kind of get close. If you miss a green, this rough is really, really hard. Every time it comes out differently. There's no way of gauging how it's going to come out,” she said.
Korda’s last top-10 finish came at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout presented by JTBC in April, where she finished alone in third.
The 24-year-old has battled an arm injury all year; an ailment that forced her to withdraw from representing the United States the Solheim Cup.
Park looking for win No. 3
After becoming the first rookie in the LPGA Tour’s history to ascend to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings, Sung Hyun Park is in position for her third win of the year, after the U.S. Women’s Open and the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open.
Park tied the round of the day Friday with a 4-under-par 68, moving her into a tie for fourth.
She admitted she had many birdie chances but couldn’t convert them all. She did, however, make seven birdies on the day, calling the round ‘quite satisfying.’
She said her approach won’t be changing for Saturday’s final round, despite the fact she sits only three shots back of the lead.
“I'll just focus on my play tomorrow,” she explained. “Every shot and every round, I just think about my shots only.”
Park took last week in Japan off, but finished tied for fifth the week before at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia and moved into the top spot on the Rolex Rankings this week.
Choi fires ‘best round in almost two years’
A 4-under-par 68 was the round of the day Friday at the Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Club, shot by five golfers including Na Yeon Choi.
She said the key was to stay within herself, and just take it one shot at a time.
“I don't know how I played without bogey,” she admitted. “My emotion control was very good out there. Even when my ball finished in not a good position, still, I tried to make kind of an easy shot for the next shot.”
Choi, who hasn’t won since 2015, managed to stay bogey free on a day that was tough, condition-wise.
“I think I played very smartly and safely, and I hit so many good, solid shots out there today, especially today. I feel good about my round today,” she said. “This I think is the best round, almost (in) the last two years.”
Choi acknowledged she’s been going through a bit of a slump of late, but has tried to stay emotionally positive as the Blue Bay LPGA marks her final event of 2017.
“This is officially the last tournament for me this year. I know my game's gradually getting better this year. My slump, like started last year in the summer, and definitely gradually getting better this year,” she said. “This is the last tournament. I don't want any regret after this week. I think I handled very well my mental game out there. I think that's why my (shots) and putts and everything was good.”
Jutanugarn in position for her first victory
After playing the first three rounds of the Blue Bay LPGA with her sister Ariya – who has become somewhat accustomed to winning – Moriya Jutanugarn is in a prime position for her first career LPGA title, after 10 top-10 finishes in 2017 alone.
“I think golf is about patience,” she explained of her consistant play this season. “Sometimes it can be everything you want. So that's what I say, when the time comes, it will come (for a win). But I really trust it's going to come.”
Jutanugarn fired a 4-under-par 68 on Friday and will play in the final group Saturday with Shanshan Feng and Ashleigh Buhai.
She said she has recovered well from a knee injury a couple of weeks ago.
“It's much better,” she said of her knee. “Malaysia is my first week that I just come back from injury. It's getting much better so far. It just takes time but it keeps better every day. Just in Malaysia, it was kind of like I'm getting pretty excited, coming back to play. I feel like I've been off for five weeks, so it's just like I kind of have to get going. After that, I feel much better.”
Jutanugarn sits just one shot back of Feng’s lead, but wants to try to stick to her game plan as best she can during Saturday’s finale.
“I just want to go out and enjoy my game tomorrow, enjoy everything here on the golf course,” she said. “Just have to be a lot patient on this golf course. Just want to play my game and be patient tomorrow.”
Symetra Tour grad Liu enjoying LPGA opportunity
After an excellent season on the Symetra Tour where she won once and had eight top-10 finishes, including a runner-up at the season ending Symetra Tour Championship, China’s Yu Liu has put together a respectable performance at her LPGA Tour debut for 2017.
The Blue Bay LPGA marks Liu’s first event since earning her LPGA Tour card via the Volvik Race for the Card, having finished fifth on the season-long race on the Symetra Tour.
She played with major winners I.K. Kim (with whom she shares a swing coach) and Brittany Lang on Friday, where she shot a 3-over-par 75, and said the vibe on the LPGA Tour is different than what she’s used to. However, she said she’s feeling good on the bigger stage, and is eager to get ready for the 2018 season.
“LPGA definitely plays kind of different from the Symetra Tour. The competition level is higher, and the difficulty of the course and the condition is a little different, too. Just trying to get used to… playing with someone that you're so used to seeing on TV before,” she said. “I think it's great to know what I need to work on over the next few months. So yeah, definitely set some goals for the off-season.”
Liu said the opportunity to play in more tournaments like the Blue Bay LPGA on a full LPGA Tour schedule next season has her excited for what’s to come, and she’s enjoyed the time playing in front of fans from her home country.
“Really nice to be playing in my home country,” she said. “Been playing in Asia mostly, but I don’t get to see (my friends) so much playing the Symetra. Just really enjoyed it out there.”