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Pace and Korda sharing lead in China
October 25, 2014

Jessica Korda and Lee-Anne Pace are tied for the lead after 36 holes of play and will take the lead into the third and final round on Sunday at the Blue Bay LPGA. After the second round was suspended for the day on Friday for unplayable conditions, players had to wait another three hours on Saturday morning to get back underway.

More heavy rains hit the Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Course in the morning and tee times were moved from 9:00 a.m. with an official start at 12:02 p.m. local time. Tour officials reduced the event from 72 holes to 54 holes on Friday and the third and final round will be played on Sunday.

Chella Choi (68-66) sits in solo second with 18 holes to play and trails the lead by just one shot. Americans Michelle Wie (67-68) and Brittany Lang (67-68) are tied with China’s own Shanshan Feng (67-68) for fourth place and will start the final round two shots back.

Korda, who was the first-round leader, had a rough start with a double bogey on the par 4 1st hole but did not drop a shot the rest of the day.

“I got a little frazzled there as I was walking to the first tee box and then obviously didn’t hit a good shot, and I just I tried to forget about it, tried to bring back, you know, it’s okay and just think about what’s ahead and not what just happened,” said Korda.

It was her play on the back nine that got her back in the picture on the leaderboard and birdied No. 14 to get to 9-under par and within one shot of Pace who had the outright lead.

Pace, along with Chella Choi and Austin Ernst, shot the low round of the day with a 6-under 66 that included seven birdies and one bogey. She birdied the par 4 12th with a chip in from the fringe to get to 9-under par and to gain a share of the lead for the first time all day.

“I played pretty decent,” said Pace. “I made quite a few putts already by that stage and then the putter just started rolling nicely towards the end.”

Pace would pick up her two final birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 to get to 11-under par and the outright lead. But she was caught by Korda who birdied three consecutive holes from Nos. 14-16. Her string of birdies was not the highlight of the round but rather a 17-foot par putt on the 18th hole that kept her at 11-under par.

“I would say the putt on 18 that I made to save par was definitely good to bring the momentum that I had on the last 17 holes, to bring it in for tomorrow,” said Korda. “So hopefully I can just feed off of that.”

Korda has three career wins and two this season and would join Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park as the only three-time winners in 2014. Pace is playing for her first LPGA Tour career win but is fresh off her ninth-career victory on the Ladies European Tour in her home country of South Africa. Pace won the Cell C South African Women’s Open in dramatic fashion in a two-hole, sudden-death playoff.

On her pace: Lee-Anne Pace is coming off a whirlwind of a week when she won her ninth Ladies European Tour event in front of friends and family in her home country of South Africa.

“I’ve never won the South African Open, so that was pretty huge,” said Pace. “A lot of my friends and my mom and sister came up.”

Pace, who defeated Holly Clyburn on the second sudden-death playoff hole, came to China exhausted. But it hasn’t seemed to slow her down.

“Really tired Tuesday and then during the afternoon pro-am. I couldn’t even remember the course,” said Pace. “On Thursday when I teed off, I could not remember, but a couple of things stood out like if you hit it in the small areas you’re bound to have about a 15 footer anyway for birdie. So just hit it on the right side. There’s a lot of slopes in these greens, so if you miss it on the right side, you’re always going to have a decent try.”

Pace has had her fair share of success in the town of Sanya and won twice in the Chinese town on the LET, winning the Sanya Ladies Open in 2010 and 2013. She couldn’t place exactly why she plays so well on Hainan Island but thinks it might have to do with her affection for the grass.

“Maybe I just like the type of grass. I can read the greens fairly easy,” said Pace. “I think what you see is what you get out there. I don’t know what it is. I seem to play well every time.”

Pace currently ranks 70th in the Race to the CME Globe and had her sights on earning major points to solidify her spot in the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. The top-72 players in the points standings after the Lorena Ochoa Invitational earn their way in.

“No, definitely. We came in with that goal this week just to play and definitely get through it and getting to this week,” said Pace. “Hopefully I can pull that through, amongst other things.”

Distinguished drainage: After two days of heavy rain fall, players at Blue Bay LPGA were shocked when they returned to play on Saturday morning. The field had a consensus reaction to when they were asked about the course conditions during the second round. They agreed that the combination of the quality of the drainage system and the hard work of the grounds crew at Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Club left the track in nearly perfect condition.

“It’s pretty amazing how great the golf course drained,” said Michelle Wie. “I mean Cristie (Kerr), we were like sitting on the ground today like while we were waiting and it was absolutely dry. It was so dry, and it’s crazy. It’s pretty phenomenal what they did with the bunkers and how they got the course ready in that short of time. I think any other course if we got that much rain we’d be done for the week. So it’s pretty phenomenal.”

Lee-Anne Pace attested to the conditions in general even before the rain and said that the crew has kept them up to standard even before the rainfall.

“Fantastic. Very dry,” said Pace. “There were a couple of spots, but not on the fairways. I think the conditions in general is fantastic. The greens are really true if you get the right reads.”
Jessica Korda also did the “sit test” and said she couldn’t feel any moisture while sitting on the ground.

“We had about a 25 minute wait on one of the tee boxes, and I sat down, and my butt was not wet. So if that gives you any inclination of what it looks like out there, it’s amazing conditions,” said Korda. “The golf course is draining incredibly well for how much rain we got. You know, the bunkers are obviously a little wet, but other than that, it’s amazing how well it’s responded to how much dumping it’s gotten.”

Reduced but still official: The LPGA has been lucky when it comes to good weather this season and has not had an event reduced to 54 holes yet this year until this week in China. The last event to be reduced was the 2013 Evian Championship in its debut year as a major. Sunday’s forecast in Sanya calls for scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms. In order for an event to be counted as official, 36 holes need to be completed.

Players were thrown into a guessing game on when play would be able to resume on the weekend at Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Course but for many players, the reduction from 72 holes to 54 holes did not change their game plans all that much.

“I mean yes and no. It’s tough with the rain. We still don’t know what it’s going to look like tomorrow,” said Korda. “Today it was supposed to be 90 percent chance and yesterday it was like 60 or 70. So every day is completely different, and we’re just trying to play. I don’t think the mindset is very different. I think the girls are going to be making birdies regardless, and so you just gotta limit the mistakes and keep up with them.”

Michelle Wie, who was just one shot off the lead to start the second round on Saturday, said that she was happy to put herself in a good position early on.

“Yeah. I was in a good position,” said Wie. “I think if I was a couple more shots back, I would have felt more urgent, but definitely one more round. I’m definitely a couple shots back. I just need to make it up tomorrow.”

Quotable: “Obviously my goal this year is to win as many tournaments as I could, and I’m incredibly grateful and pleased with the two that I have had, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow. There’s still a lot of golf ahead. Whatever the weather does, also we have to wait for that, and it’s going to take a lot of patience, but I think the fact that I’ve been in this position more than once this year is a good sign.” –Jessica Korda on playing for win No. 3 this season

Inbee Park to take No. 1 Spot in the Rolex Rankings
Regardless of what happens this week in Sanya, Inbee Park will overtake Stacy Lewis for the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Park and Lewis are both missing from LPGA action but Park is playing in a KLPGA event.

Heading into the week, Lewis and Park were in a statistical dead heat for the top spot: Lewis’ official average was 11.0444, while Park’s was 11.0382 (which is rounded up to display as 11.04). A player’s position in the rankings is based on their total points divided by the number of events played over a two-year rolling period.

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