(Reuters) – South Korea’s Kim Sei-young and Candie Kung of Taiwan emerged at the top of leaderboard after a brutal third day of scoring at the Blue Bay LPGA in China where only four players shot sub-par rounds.
Overnight leader Kim produced a two-over-par round of 74 to sign for a 216 level-par total, matched by Kung who bogeyed her last two holes to sign for a 73 at the $2 million event in Hainan Island.
The blustering conditions and heavily undulating greens at the lengthy Jian Lake Blue Bay Course have proved a stern test for the LPGA’s finest taking part in the penultimate leg of the five-tournament Asian swing.
Kim, chasing rookie of the year honours, has shown her best in the wind this year with two titles in Bahamas and Hawaii earlier in the season but said Blue Bay had been a step up after she mixed three birdies with five bogeys in Saturday’s round.
“This is the toughest course I’ve ever played,” the world number 11 said.
“Overall, I’m happy with my performance, although I feel this is really, really tough.”
Kung, chasing her fifth LPGA Tour event and first LPGA Tour title in seven years, said she had just concentrated on surviving Saturday.
“I really am very much distraught with the windy conditions,” the world number 63 said.
“There is no way you really have time to think about who is behind you, who ahead of you, and in what way on course you can catch up or whatever. You just do your best.”
American Stacy Lewis was a shot back on one-over after a third round 73 and the world number three was expecting another tough outing on Sunday.
“I think the weather is going to be even worse tomorrow, so it’s really more of a mental test than anything.”
Taiwanese rookie Hsu Wei-Ling fired the best round of the day, a four-under-par 68 after an astonishing seven birdies over her closing 10 holes vaulted her up the leaderboard into a share of eighth on three-over.
World number one Lydia Ko was among the sub-par quartet, hitting six birdies in a round of 70 which helped move her up to plus six and a share of 20th.
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)