OCALA – Just four days after making a historic albatross in the Bahamas, Ha Na Jang is making headlines yet again.
Wednesday morning, Jang carded a bogey-free, 7-under par, 65 to take a 3-stroke lead in the opening round of the Coates Golf Championship Presented By R+L Carriers. Ranked No.14 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Jang leads a a group of six players tied for second at 4-under par, including rookie In Gee Chun, Sei Young Kim, Kim Kaufman, Candie Kung, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Kelly Tan.
This week’s venue Golden Ocala is a favorite of Jang’s, who Monday Qualified for this event last year and made the most of the opportunity, posting the first of four runner-up finishes in 2015.
“No.7 is a very lucky number, so I feel very comfortable today because last year I had a second-place finish, so I really have more confidence on this golf course,” Jang told LPGA.com after her round. “I like it’s an old golf course, and just thinking like on the fairway and the greens, there’s no problem because the weather is perfect and then everything is really good today, yeah.”
That confidence has been a focus since Jang began working with instructor Kevin Kim at last year’s Cambia Portland Classic, where she finished second for the third time last season. Kim says that lack of confidence is what kept Jang from being able to hit the shots she needed under pressure, often leaving herself with difficult up and downs that cost her the tournament, especially coming down the stretch on Sunday.
Wednesday, Jang showed how confident she is in her abilities, successfully saving par throughout her round, extending her bogey free-streak to 57 holes.
“Oh, it’s perfect, no bogeys. I like it. So today is like more, I don’t want to think about that it’s windy and don’t play for a score. I don’t see the scoreboards. I just keep going just simple, simple, simple.”
Rookie In Gee Chun made her debut Wednesday as a member of the LPGA Tour. The 2015 U.S. Women’s Open Champion earned membership with her victory last summer. She carded a bogey-free 4-under par, 68 to sit three shots back of Jang and is part of the group currently tied for second.
Lexi Thompson briefly held solo second at 5-under par, before making back-to-back bogeys at 13 and 14 to fall back to 3-under par for the day.
"Yeah, I mean, it's definitely challenging," Thompson said after her round. "You have to keep it in the fairway with it being tree-lined, and then the rough is only about an inch deep, but you're going to get some gnarly lies and some fliers, so you've got to keep it in the fairway."
Thompson is T-8 in a large group at 3-under par, including veterans Juli Inkster, Cristie Kerr and world No.1 Lydia Ko, who got off to a slow start, making the turn at 1-over par but made up ground on the back nine by going 4-under par on the inward nine.
Play was suspended due to darkness at 6:24 p.m. Giulia Molinaro is the only player remaining on the course. She will return Thursday morning to complete her first round.