Defending champion Shanshan Feng and fellow overnight leader Na Yeon Choi remained tied for the lead after the third round of the Buick Championship, played in cloudy and blustery conditions at Shanghai Qizhong Garden Golf Club, in China, on Saturday.
Choi led for most of the day before making bogey on 18 to slip back into a share of the lead with Feng on nine-under-par.
The pair began the third round tied but after a two shot swing on the second hole, followed by a birdie for Choi on the fourth, the 29-year-old South Korean established a three stroke cushion. She maintained it for another 12 holes as both she and Feng birdied the ninth and the 11th, but the world number 18 lost her groove on the back nine in tough conditions, with winds gusting up to 25 miles per hour.
“I think I played really well, especially on the front nine. I had three birdies out there and without a bogey. I think I was a little tired on the back nine,” said Choi, a former world number two whose nine international victories include the 2012 US Women’s Open.
She bogeyed 13 before Feng picked up a stroke on 15. Then, on the par-4 18th, Choi uncharacteristically three-putted. Choi explained: “It’s a foursome and there’s a lot of wind out there. I had a late dinner last night, so I think my body was a little tired and it was hard to focus on my game out there. My name is still at the top of the leader board so I’m really looking forward to playing tomorrow.”
World number 10 Feng, with 14 career wins including three in China, seemed delighted with her third round of 70 and commented: “I had a bit of a rough start because I was nervous to be honest at the beginning, being the defending champion, playing back in China and this is my sponsor’s event, so I do have a lot of pressure. After two holes, I was like, ‘You know what? I’ve done well for the first two days and so why not just do the same thing, just focus on every shot,’ and I came back slowly. I made a good back nine and I’m happy about the result.”
Just two strokes behind the leaders in third place, Beth Allen, the 2015 ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters champion from the USA, made an excellent birdie putt from 25 feet on 15 before adding another on 17 to keep pace. The 34-year-old Californian said: “It was a solid day with tough conditions, and a completely different wind to yesterday. It was tricky.”
Meanwhile Florentyna Parker, who led for the first three rounds of the Lalla Meryem Cup last week in Morocco before finishing as the runner-up, is only three shots from the lead in fourth place. She is a stroke ahead of fellow Englishwoman Georgia Hall (71), who shares fifth with China’s Wei Wei Zhang on five-under-par and England’s Liz Young, who tied for ninth place last week in Morocco, is in solo seventh place followed by six players on three-under-par.
Local fans are relishing a final round duel between two of Asia’s hottest golfing properties in Choi and Feng, but with heavy rain and possible winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour expected on Sunday afternoon, the second edition of the Buick Championship is still wide open.