No Ko for Ly­dia on mov­ing day

Sunday News - - GOLF - CLAY WIL­SON

LY­DIA Ko’s ti­tle hopes were left hang­ing by a thread after a third round of missed op­por­tu­ni­ties on mov­ing day at the New Zealand Women’s Open.

Start­ing play yes­ter­day eight shots off the lead, tour­na­ment host Ko could only man­age a twounder par score of 70 at the first LPGA-sanc­tioned event on Kiwi soil.

It left the event’s top-ranked player in a tie for 11th at eigh­tun­der at the Win­dross Farm course near Auck­land, still trail­ing leader Be­len Mozo by seven.

Span­ish sen­sa­tion Mozo was the ru­n­away front-run­ner by five shots after Friday but had seen that buf­fer re­duced to just one.

Mozo picked up only one shot to reach 15-un­der, Cana­dian star Brooke Hen­der­son clip­ping at her heels after get­ting to 14-un­der with an im­pres­sive five-un­der dis­play.

Amer­i­can ma­jor win­ner Brit­tany Lin­ci­come, who shot a siz­zling six-un­der 66, and China’s Jing Yan, play­ing in the same group as Hen­der­son, held joint third at 11-un­der.

De­spite hav­ing so much ground to make up, Ko in­di­cated she would not be think­ing too much about whether or not she was in con­tention.

‘‘I don’t even know what the leader is shoot­ing at the mo­ment,’’ the 20-year-old said after a round that in­cluded three birdies and one bo­gey.

‘‘I know there is quite a bit of dif­fer­ence be­tween the leader and I . . . I just have to play my own game to­mor­row.

‘‘I heard it could be pretty dif­fer­ent con­di­tions. I just have to stay pa­tient and on a course like this it’s so open and when the wind starts pick­ing up it’s not go­ing to be easy. I’ve just got to fo­cus on me.’’

With such a size­able deficit to Mozo, Ko needed a pos­i­tive start and that is ex­actly what she got, drain­ing a 15-foot birdie putt at the par four first hole to the de­light of another strong gallery.

Un­for­tu­nately for the Kiwi fans, though, it wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily a sign of what was to come.

Ko was un­able to join the col­lec­tion of play­ers birdy­ing the par-five sec­ond, while she had to make a nervy five-footer for par at three after her tee shot into a steady west­erly breeze was well GETTY IM­AGES short and left.

Four more pars fol­lowed as the 14-time LPGA tour­na­ment win­ner was ei­ther un­able to get make­able birdie putts to drop, or re­ally fine­tune her radar on her ap­proaches.

Frus­tra­tion lev­els then likely took a mild spike at the par-four eighth when she was short with her sec­ond, chipped to eight feet and missed the putt, tak­ing her back to six-un­der as the con­tenders im­me­di­ately ahead of her be­gan to make a few moves.

If Ko was rat­tled in the HAN­NAH PE­TERS/GETTY IM­AGES

‘ I just have to play my own game to­mor­row.’ LY­DIA KO

slight­est, though, she wasn’t show­ing it and in a flash she had that shot back, stick­ing her ap­proach at the ninth to six feet and mak­ing no mis­take with the birdie try to make the turn in one­un­der 35.

But, as was the case over her open­ing two rounds, the favourite sim­ply wasn’t able to find the rhythm she des­per­ately needed to make a run and more pars were the only thing flow­ing as a classy chip at 12 de­cided not to drop.

At the par-five 14th there was fi­nally a rare show of emo­tion, Ko slap­ping her wedge into the turf in dis­ap­point­ment as a chip came up short. Another failed con­ver­sion with the flat-stick, per­haps her best birdie chance of the day, fol­lowed at 15.

Seven-un­der looked to be her fin­ish­ing num­ber when pars came at 16 and 17 be­fore she was able to fin­ish strong by sink­ing a birdie putt of around 10 feet at the last.

It was a pos­i­tive way to walk off 18 but she has an up­hill task to lift the sil­ver­ware.

‘‘The front nine was pretty calm and then pro­gres­sively through the back nine it started pick­ing up,’’ Ko said.

‘‘It was pretty tough play­ing into that, I just tried to grind it out, stay pa­tient. I started with a bang and fin­ished with a bang, I’ll take that.’’

Ly­dia Ko ac­knowl­edges the crowd after fin­ish­ing her round with a birdie yes­ter­day.

Be­len Mozo leads by one shot.

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