15 Jan 2022 | Professional golf |
The WPGA: Su Oh in sight of a drought-breaking victory
by PGA of Australia
By Jim Tucker
Su Oh is zeroing in on her first tournament win in seven years after a fine 68 on Saturday set the pace in the Fortinet WPGA at Royal Queensland.
The 25-year-old rediscovered her touch with five birdies to regain the lead after a ragged second round of 72 had left the Victorian playing catch-up.
Oh (66-72-68) was still surprised to find herself with a two-shot lead because a lack of leaderboards and in circumstances where playing in a different group to her two closest challengers made keeping track difficult.
Oh shrugged and said she’d stay in her own zone, keep making birdies and hope the rest would take care of itself in the final round on Sunday.
At seven-under-par, she is in the box seat to press on for the Karrie Webb Cup and her first win since the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast in 2015.
She holds a two-shot lead over LPGA regular Sarah Jane Smith (71-68-69) and rookie Grace Kim (69-68-71), who have made it a fascinating three-way tussle. The trio were all locked at six-under early on Saturday.
Kim reached the lead at eight-under before a stumble over the closing holes handed the edge back to her far more experienced competitor.
“I played quite well. I think it’s just sort of try and shoot as many under par as possible on Sunday because there are not a lot of leaderboards to see out there,” Oh said. “It’s a difficult course. Try your best and see where you end up I think.”
The course is tricky enough for sudden changes at the top. The three top contenders all had a double bogey.
Oh's one trip-up on the par four 16th, when she found the rough and had a three-putt, came out of the blue after five birdies and a trouble-free run.
At her best, she holed an excellent putt for birdie from nearly five metres on the third after her approach released and rolled pin high.
She is excited to have put herself in a position to win again with more golf like that.
“You lose a lot more than you win in this sport. Yeah, hopefully I can get the job done. It would be nice to reassure myself,” Oh said.
“I mean, finishing second is always a bit annoying but I think if I can just keep knocking on that door, I’m sure I can get the job done.”
Kim is learning every day about her mettle as a rookie pro and quickly burying the hurt of her late Saturday wobbles will be another test.
The rookie pro from Sydney’s Avondale Golf Club had played so serenely through the opening 14 holes of the third round that no one saw the turbulence ahead.
She’d stroked in three birdies and earned the plaudits of playing partner Andrew Dodt for “hardly missing a shot”.
Then in a blink, the 21-year-old dropped three shots in two holes and a slump in her shoulders made it the first crisis of her biggest tournament as a pro.
A par-par finish still meant signing for an even-par round. Kim (69-68-71) will start Sunday’s final round beside Smith (71-68-69) on five-under as the pair try to apply the pressure on Oh.
“I obviously didn’t end it the way I wanted but hopefully I’ll have a lot more putts drop in on Sunday. To be able to chase someone is pretty exciting for tomorrow,” Kim said.
Kim caught a huge lucky break on the short par four 12th when she miscued her bump-and-run approach which had the steam to scuttle off the green. It ricocheted off Dodt’s ball, came to a favourable stop and she holed for a birdie.
Kim came unstuck on the par five 15th when her drive found a fairway bunker and she caught the lip and stayed in with her second shot. By the time she’d pulled her approach left and come up short with a chip, she was signing for an ugly seven. Another poor chip cost her bogey on the next before she stabilised a little.
Kim saw beyond the hiccups to the big picture of competing at the top end of a big event with $180,000 for the winner on Sunday.
“It’s great. I’m probably the only one who doesn’t really have a full US card in the top half of this field but it’s really comforting to know that I’m able to compete against them,” Kim said. “I’m loving where I am right now.”
Smith made the big early move on Saturday. The 37-year-old Queenslander gave no hint of it with a bogey on her opening hole before back-to-back birdies.
She was four-under for three holes when she played a beautiful 50-degree wedge into the par four fifth from 88m. The ball kept on tracking all the way into the hole for an eagle, a huge smile and a jump to six-under.
When she is on that sort of roll of no-fuss swings, putts dropping and quick play you do feel the groove she is in.
When she had a two-putt birdie on the part five seventh to reach seven-under, you felt the momentum she was riding.
A hiccup for bogey on the 13th and then a costly double bogey on the 16th when she missed a short putt dropped her back.
Curling in a lovely 2.5 metre putt on the final hole for her fifth birdie was just the tonic.
“It was all over the place. I felt I played really solid and smart in places and then made some really silly mistakes,” Smith said.
Smith is just two shots behind Oh and is a realistic chance at winning her first pro event in 14 years.
“I definitely need a low one on Sunday,” Smith said.
She’ll switch her mindset to attack more after playing with Brad Kennedy for two rounds.
“I had a good talk to Brad. Something I need to do is be a bit more aggressive on the course. I’ve played really well on really tough golf courses in the past,” she said.
“I can make a lot of birdies...Sunday is a good chance to practise that.”
Young Aussies Breanna Gill (68) and Julienne Soo (68), into fourth, both jumped up the field with top third round scores.
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