Date: April 07, 2019
Author: Mark Hayes

Kirk clings on as Ko erupts

It’s often said the measure of champions is how they bounce back from adversity.

That already holds true for the leaders of the ANA Inspiration – and will provide Australian Katherine Kirk with her own opportunity tomorrow.

Kirk couldn’t replicate her putting master class that she put on during the second round, but kept in touch with a gritty 74 when many of the contenders for the year’s first major fell away.

The Queenslander will start tomorrow’s final round at three under, just five from the lead but in a share of fifth place and close enough to contend at Rancho Mirage.

Her chances might well hinge on the continued form of new leader Jin Young Ko, the 2018 Women’s Australian Open champion who roared through the field early as others stumbled.

Ko, last year’s LPGA Tour rookie of the year, peeled off six birdies in her opening 12 holes to reach 10 under.

But just when she was threatening to blow the tournament apart, Ko dumped her tee shot on the par-three 14th into the water and took a double-bogey.

Five minutes later, another Ko bogey on the 15th suddenly gave hope to the field.

But, as the greats do, Ko steeled herself and made a quality birdie on the 17th to extend back out to eight under, where she finished with a fine 68 despite her travails.

Overnight leader and fellow Korean In-Kyung Kim fared similarly, with an early bogey compounded by a double-bogey on the ninth playing alongside Kirk.

But Kim, the 2017 Women’s British Open champion, also dug deep when it mattered and played the back nine two under to claw back to seven under, just one from the lead.

American Danielle Kang (70) and Mi Hyang Lee (68) share third at five under, with the Korean another to bounce back from potential calamity when she had an ace on the 17th, just an hour after she went double-bogey and then bogey on the 12th and 13th to slump down the leaderboard.

Kirk shares fifth with Jeongeun Lee6 and Alena Sharp with seven players on two under and another 11 on one under.

At even par, Perth’s Minjee Lee remains the faintest of chances after finding her touch late today in carding a 69.

The remaining Australian, Queenslander Sarah Jane Smith fell to nine over with a flat 76.