The start of the LPGA’s Asian swing looks as if it is down to an All-American duel.
Jessica Korda and Danielle Kang pulled away from Brooke Henderson and the rest of the pack Saturday at the Buick Shanghai.
After sticking her approach to 3 feet at the last, Korda closed with a birdie to take sole possession of the lead going into the final round.
At 15 under overall, Korda (66) is a shot ahead of Kang (66), the defending champion, and five ahead of Henderson (73), who was the 36-hole leader.
American rookie Kristen Gillman (68) and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka (67) are six back.
Korda, 26, won’t be easy to catch as she seeks to win her sixth LPGA title in a sixth different country. She is a strong closer, having won three of the four times she has held a 54-hole lead in LPGA events. She’s especially good internationally, following her breakthrough victory at the Women’s Australian Open in 2012 with victories in the Bahamas, the United States, Malaysia and Thailand.
Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai
What is it about her game that travels so well?
“Luckily, I got to travel with my dad when I was a kid,” Korda said of her father, Petr, the 1998 Australian Open tennis champ. “I’m used to living out of a suitcase. Hotel rooms are homes. It’s just another week.”
Korda, Kang and Henderson gave Shanghai a dynamic final grouping Saturday and they will be back together again Sunday. Henderson can’t be discounted, even five shots back. She shot 64 on Friday but made the challenge Sunday more difficult with a double bogey at the last, after tugging her approach left, where it kicked into the water.
Kang, who celebrated her birthday 26th birthday on Saturday, bounced back from a bogey-bogey start that saw her fall four shots back. She narrowed the gap with six birdies and an eagle over the final 14 holes. She reached the 17th in two shots with a terrific fairway wood to 4 feet and then rolled in the eagle putt to briefly tie Korda.
With Cheyenne Knight winning the Volunteers of America Classic in the last LPGA event, the Americans are looking for back-to-back victories, for their fourth in individual stroke play events this year, their fifth overall with Cydney Clanton winning a team event with Thailand’s Jasmine Suwannapura.
Korda is making her first start since the Solheim Cup, where she and sister Nelly were each undefeated, sporting 3-0-1 marks. Korda said the nature of Saturday’s back-and-forth with Kang and Henderson felt like match play.
“Every putt mattered ... so brought those Solheim juices back,” Korda said.