While the wind continued to blow on Friday at Hoakalei Country Club, sponsor invite Yu Jin Sung hung on for dear life, grinding out a gritty 1-under 71 to retain the lead at -9 with 18 holes to play at the LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei. It was a steady day three for the 22-year-old, who made birdie right out of the gate on the par-5 first hole. She parred the next eight holes to turn in 35 and notched three more on holes 10, 11 and 12. Sung finally made another birdie on the par-4 13th, but dropped a shot on the very next hole, bogeying No. 14. The KLPGA winner then parred her way into the clubhouse, posting at 9-under overall to hold a one-shot heading into the final round, with a shot at LPGA Tour Membership on the line.
“I haven't really thought about the winning part. There is still a day left in this tournament. Again, not really thinking about winning but just trying to show my best golf game,” said Sung, who won the 2022 LOTTE Open on the KLPGA Tour. “Wouldn't say it was difficult per se today. It's just that my game, just I didn't play my best game. Our group, there were a lot of ups and downs and wasn't the smoothest, so that was a little bit tough. But the course condition was great.”
Three players sit in a tie for second, one shot back of Sung at 8-under: Australian rookie Grace Kim, Epson Tour graduate Linnea Strom and major champion Georgia Hall. Hall, the veteran of the trio, is coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes at the LPGA Drive On Championship, where she lost to Celine Boutier in a playoff, and the DIO Implant LA Open, where she missed a short birdie putt on the last to fall one short of Ruoning Yin. Eager to get the monkey off her back, Hall, who made four birdies and three bogeys on Moving Day, is leaning on her mental game as she looks to break through for the third time on the LPGA Tour.
“I think it's just like the last year or two have of just hard work and consistency. It didn't happen overnight. I think that's what a lot of players know, and especially me. I've been working harder than normal the past year, especially on my game and my clubs. It's just paying off now,” said Hall, whose last LPGA Tour victory was the 2020 Portland Classic. “Just got to stay patient out there. My mentality on the golf course is my strongest part of me as a player, my strongest part of my game. I just want to keep that going.”
Four players sit in a tie for fifth at 7-under, including six-time LPGA Tour winner Nasa Hataoka and American Christina Kim, who is looking for her first victory in more than eight years. An international fivesome are tied for ninth at 6-under, including 13-time LPGA Tour winner Brooke Henderson and Epson Tour winner Bailey Tardy. Tardy shot the low round of the tournament so far on Friday, firing a bogey-free, 7-under 65. Defending champion Hyo Joo Kim is in a tie for 47th after carding rounds of 68-78-71.