RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Ha Na Jang and In Gee Chun both played themselves into contention Thursday at the ANA Inspiration.
They also played down any talk of a lingering feud.
“There’s no problem,” Jang said.
“We said hello this morning,” Chun said. “It’s bygones be bygones.”
Chun posted a 69 in the afternoon, and moments later Jang also posted a 69. They were playing in back-to-back groupings. They’re each just two shots off the lead.
Jang is already a two-time winner on the LPGA this year. Chun is the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion. They were stars on the Korean LPGA Tour before joining the American-based tour, and they just might have brought the makings for the most compelling rivalry in the women’s game to Mission Hills, especially if they both take this stellar play into a Sunday showdown.
Chun is making her first start since she was hurt after Jang’s father lost control of a 15-pound travel bag that went crashing down an escalator at the Singapore airport last month. The bag struck Chun in the tailbone. Chun withdrew from that week’s HSBC Women’s Champions and later the JTBC Founders Cup and last week’s Kia Classic while being treated for injuries to her lumbar muscles, sacroiliac joint and pelvis.
The bizarre circumstances surrounding the airport incident set off a media firestorm in South Korea with Chun locked in an intense battle with Jang and others to make the Korean Olympic team. Jang went on to win in Singapore, moving her inside the qualifying cutoff to make the Olympic team and bumping Chun outside of it.
“It was just an accident,” Chun reiterated after her round.
This week marks the first time they’ve been face to face since the incident.
Korean media reported afterward that Jang’s father apologized immediately after the incident, but Chun’s family originally questioned “shortcomings” in the apology and an explanation of what caused Jang’s father to drop the bag.
At the Founders Cup two weeks ago, Jang said the whole incident and the furor it created had left her crying in her hotel room. She also said she was curtailing her colorful on-course celebrations because of the criticism she was getting back in Korea from golf fans upset over Chun’s injuries. Jang’s Samurai-style lasso after winning the Coates Golf Championship and her Beyonce dance after winning HSBC went viral among American fans who loved her exuberance.
Chun, 21, said after Thursday’s round that it was time for “moving forward” and she wanted to enjoy this week.
Jang, 23, said she brought out a few “baby fist pumps” in her round Thursday but she’s still not comfortable unveiling any celebratory moves.
“Really good shot, sometimes a fist pump,” Jang said.
Chun says she’s about “85 percent” healthy with some lingering stiffness in her lower right back, but she felt good on the course Thursday. She has a physiotherapist with her this week treating her before and after rounds.