HONOLULU — Yu Jin Sung shot a 1-under 71 on Friday at windy Hoakalei Country Club to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the LOTTE Championship.
The 22-year-old South Korean is playing on a sponsor exemption after winning the 2022 LOTTE Open on the Korean LPGA. She’s trying to become the first sponsor invite to win since Lydia Ko in the 2013 CP Women’s Open.
“I haven’t really thought about the winning part,” Sung said. “There is still a day left in this tournament. Again, not really thinking about winning, but just trying to show my best golf game.”
She opened with a birdie on the par-5 first, dropped a stroke on the par-4 13th and rebounded with a birdie on the par-4 14th.
“It’s a very difficult course and it’s really windy today, so I tried my best to just ease and play that way,” Sung said.
Georgia Hall, Linnea Strom and tour rookie Grace Kim were tied for second, with 13 players within three strokes of each other at the top of the leaderboard.
Kim, from Australia, had a 70. Hall, from England, and Strom, from Sweden, each shot 71.
“I’m very happy to be in this position,” Strom said. “I’ve been working very hard to be here. So, it’s nice to see some hard work pay off. But I still feel like I’m not hitting it quite as good as I want out there. I’m hitting the drives pretty good, but struggling a bit with my irons at the moment.”
Thailand’s Natthakritta Vongtaveelap, tied for the lead after each of the first two rounds, had a 73 to fall into a tie for fifth at 7 under with Lauren Hartlage (70), Christina Kim (71) and Nasa Hataoka (71).
The 20-year-old Vongtaveelap is making her second LPGA Tour start. In February, she won her first two events as pro on the Thai LPGA Tour, then was second behind Lilia Vu in the LPGA Thailand.
Brooke Henderson, at No. 7 the highest-ranked player in the field, had two back-nine bogeys in a 69 that left her 6 under. The Canadian birdied five or her first seven holes. She’s the only multiple winner in event history, taking the 2018 and 2019 titles at Ko Olina.
“The front nine was a lot of fun,” Henderson said. “I was making a lot of birdies and giving myself a lot of the good opportunities. Unfortunately, dropped a couple shots here on the back nine. Hopefully, just go out there and do the same thing the first nine holes and just clean this up a little bit.”
Bailey Tardy (65) also was 6 under with Celine Boutier (67), Peiyun Chien (69) and Siyun Liu (70).
Defending champion Hyo Joo Kim was 1 over, following a second-round 78 with a 71.
The Chevron Championship, the first women’s major championship of the year, is next week in Texas.