OCALA – The third round of the Coates Golf Championship Presented by R+L Carriers was suspended at 6:12 p.m. Friday evening due to darkness. Play will resume 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
Ha Na Jang and Lydia Ko share the lead at 7-under par, grouped together with Haru Nomura, the trio was able to complete six holes before the horn blew Friday evening. Trailing by one-stroke to start the round, Ko birdied the par 3, 4th hole to move into a tie with Jang, who held both the 18 and 36 hole lead. Ko backed off a putt at her final hole of the day, the par 4, 6th concerned that her ball had moved at address, which the group and TV cameras confirmed did not occur.
“Yeah, I wasn't sure because it's obviously getting a little dark, and with the steepness of the greens, you never know if it does move or not, and I kind of was hovering over it going back and forth, so I don't know if that action was making it look like it moved or not,” Ko said. “The rules, we cleared everything, so now I can just go to bed and have a good dinner and come out here early, but this happened to me last year at this tournament, the second round or something, and it happened at KPMG, too, so I just wanted to clarify it so it wouldn't be a problem tomorrow.”
The group will resume the third round at the seventh tee Saturday morning.
Kim Kaufman got off to a hot start Friday afternoon, moving into a share of the lead by making birdie on four of her first eight holes before dropping a shot at the par 4, 10th. Kaufman tried to stay patient on a long day that had players arriving early and staying until dark.
“Yeah, we knew it was going to be long, and we were ready for that. It was kind of the same thing we did last year,” Kaufman told the media. “We knew early it was going to be kind of a fight, and then with about seven holes left this morning, I thought, okay, let's make some birdies, and we just continued that in the afternoon. I just played well, started to hit my irons really well.”
Kaufman is T-3 at 6-under par through 12 holes, along with Sei Young Kim, Jessica Korda, Lexi Thompson and Nomura. Candie Kung and rookie In Gee Chun are T-8 and 5-under par. Chun bounced back from two early bogeys with three birdies in her last five holes of the day. She will resume her round at the 10th hole on Saturday.
Friday was a marathon day for players, many returned to the course when round two resumed at 7:30 a.m. after play was delayed due to severe weather on Thursday. Players like Korda and Thompson returned to Golden Ocala to play just a few holes, then waited several hours before beginning their third round, only for play to be called for darkness.
“Yeah, it was just an early wake-up call to play two holes and then wait around until 3:00 p.m. to warm back up,” Thompson told the media after her round. “But it is what it is, you can't control the weather, and I just tried to make the best of it on the holes that I did play.”
“It's just hard to time out your day,” said Korda. “I think we came back out and played two and a half holes this morning and then had most of the afternoon, morning off and then back to play six holes, so I think just timing it all and keeping your energy levels up has been a little bit of a challenge.”
Players will not be re-grouped for the final round which will begin following completion of the third round. Round four is expected to begin at 9:40 a.m., with players going off both the first and 10th tees. 11:52 a.m. is estimated to be the final tee time of the day.