South Korea’s Ha Na Jang leads LPGA Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) South Korea’s Ha Na Jang used a late three-hole birdie run to take a one-stroke lead Friday in the LPGA Malaysia.
The 23-year-old Jang shot a bogey-free 6-under 65 to reach 10-under 132 at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. She made a downhill 10-footer on the par-4 14th, holed a right-to-left curler from 15 feet on the par-3 15th and ran in a 12-footer on the par-5 16th.
”I think today’s really good round because no bogeys,” said Jang, a two-time winner this year on the Korea LPGA. ”Just six birdies straight. I think it’s two weeks since I won Korea tournament, so it’s a little bit more confident. No pressure today. It’s like a little more simple. It’s a really good round today.”
Jang lost a playoff loss to Chella Choi in July in the Marathon Classic for the second of her three runner-up finishes in her rookie season on the LPGA Tour.
China’s Xi Yu Lin was second after a 68.
”I’m pretty confident with my game,” Lin said. ”On the weeks off I did a little change on my iron game, so yesterday I was so glad to see it’s still working.”
Top-ranked Inbee Park, Alison Lee and Yani Tseng were another stroke back.
Park, the 2012 winner, had a 68. The South Korean star won two majors this year and is tied with second-ranked Lydia Ko for the tour victory lead with four.
”Yesterday was a really bad putting day but today was much better,” Park said. ”Putting is really key to success on every golf course, and especially this golf course. A lot of short irons and when you have a lot of opportunities you got to make those birdie putts.”
Lee, tied with Lin for the first round, bogeyed Nos. 15 and 16 en route to a 69.
”I’m definitely a little disappointed with my bogeys obviously, especially with the leader being at 10 under,” Lee said. ”I pretty much had two bad approach shots. Didn’t finish up with great putts. I feel like I made a lot of the good saves. Kind of went downhill, but really looking forward to tomorrow.”
The 20-year-old American is playing her first event since her emotional Solheim Cup debut.
Last month against Europe in Germany, she was in tears after Suzann Pettersen called for the American to be penalized for picking up her ball when she mistakenly thought a short putt had been conceded in the completion of a fourballs match. Infuriated, the U.S. rallied for the biggest comeback in event history, with Lee winning her singles match.
Tseng had a 68.
Defending champion Shanshan Feng was 7 under after a 69. She made a double bogey on the par-4 18th after chunking her approach into the water in front of the green.
Ko was tied for 18th at 6 under after a 65. The 18-year-old New Zealander is coming off consecutive victories in the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open and Evian Championship, where she became the youngest major champion.
Michelle Wie, a stroke out of the lead entering the round, birdied three of her last six holes to salvage a 72. She dropped into a tie for 18th at 4 under.
Pettersen, also playing her first event since the Solheim Cup, was tied for 72nd in the 74-player field at 12 over. The competitive Norwegian had her second straight 77, making a quadruple bogey on 15 and a double bogey on 18.
The event is the first of five straight in Asia. The LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship is next week in South Korea, followed by stops in Taiwan, China and Japan.