EWA BEACH, Hawaii — Hyo Joo Kim rallied with two late birdies for an even-par 72 to maintain a three-stroke lead Friday in the LPGA Tour’s Lotte Championship.
After dropping strokes on the par-4 seventh and par-3 12th with her only bogeys of the week at breezy Hoakalei Country Club, Kim birdied the par-4 14th and par-5 18th to get back to 10 under with one round left.
“It was very windy today,” said Kim, the 26-year-old South Korean player who won the last of her four LPGA Tour titles in 2019. “There was a lot of wind going back and forth. I think it was difficult because it was not specifically (from one) direction. The pin position was also difficult compared to the first and second rounds. I had a hard time in that regard.”
Kim nearly holed out from a greenside bunker for eagle on 18.
“It was very important because it was a matter of over par or not. I had a chance at the 16th hole, but I missed so I was a little angry,” said Kim, the winner of the major Evian Championship in 2014. “Now I feel much better since I made a birdie on the last hole.”
American Brianna Do (67) and Japan’s Hinako Shibuno (68) were tied for second. Sunday qualifier Do birdied the first three holes.
“It’s kind of nice starting off with a par 5,” Do said. “You go driver, 3-wood and then you have a wedge in hand. Yeah, starting with a birdie always helps. It calms the nerves and kind of gets you settled into the round.”
Do ran into trouble on the difficult 16th hole, which features a split fairway and multiple water features. Her tee shot found a bunker on an adjacent hole, her second hit a nearby tree and left her a shot out of the rough. With her third shot, however, Do found the green from over 200 yards and she went on to two-putt for bogey.
“I thought I hit a good drive,” Do said. “It’s just the wind pushed it a little more and I didn’t see it because there were just some trees over there, but I’m guessing it got an unfortunate kick into that bunker on 12, I think,” Do said.
Shibuno had a bogey-free round.
“Putting was more stronger, and so, yeah that makes me birdie,” Shibuno said.
Somi Lee and Stephanie Meadow were 6 under. They each shot 69.