Teen prodigy Oh takes three-shot lead ahead of final round of Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open

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SINGAPORE, 9 MARCH 2024 – South Korean amateur sensation Oh Soo-min is on the cusp of achieving a remarkable maiden victory on the KLPGA Tour, taking a commanding three-shot lead into the final round of the Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open (HFGSWO).

The 16-year-old continued her stellar performance this week, closing her third round with two birdies to card six-under 66 on a sublime sunny Saturday (March 9) at the Tanah Merah Country Club’s 72-par Tampines Course.

Her total of seven birdies against a lone bogey propelled Oh to a three-day total of 14-under 202. She now sits comfortably atop the leaderboard after closest competitor and compatriot Bang Shin-sil unexpectedly bogeyed on the final hole.

Bang settled for a two-under 70, slipping to joint-second with overnight leader Kim Jae-hee (71) on a 11-under 205 total.

Trailing Kim by two shots after the second round, Oh made a strong start to the third by shooting birdies on the second and sixth holes to claim the top spot.

In the back nine, she added three more birdies on holes 12, 13, and 15 before conceding her first bogey of the week when her par putt lipped out on the 16th hole.

But she displayed remarkable mental resilience and quickly recovered to finish strong.

Oh is now one step away from the biggest victory of her fledgling career, which would make her the first amateur to win on the KLPGA Tour since Choi Hye-jin in 2017.

“It’s the first time that I’m on top of the leaderboard in a professional tournament like this, so it feels very surreal,” said the first-year high school student.

“I don’t know if I can actually win but I think tomorrow if I’m more relaxed, I may get some good results. I’m actually very happy with my results today. I did better than what I had originally thought.

“During tomorrow’s round, I just need to be calm because sometimes I rush things, so if I pace myself well, I can have a good game tomorrow.”

Oh also relished the opportunity to play alongside Major winner and flight-mate Patty Tavatanakit of Thailand, commemorating the experience with a post-round photograph.

She said: “I was starstruck (to play with Patty), it was like seeing a celebrity because she’s been playing great golf so I really wanted to have a chance to meet her. So it was great to play with her.”

Patty, 24, will head into the finale in tied-fourth, four shots behind Oh after she bogeyed the final hole. The world No. 27 needed three putts to close out her round, posting a two-under 70.

South Koreans Jeong Yun-ji (67), Ro Seung-hui (68), Hwang You-min (70) and Park Do-eun (71) are also tied-fourth with 10-under 206 totals.

Jeong, who finished fifth in the inaugural HFGSWO in December 2022, has vowed to go out strong on Sunday and start the KLPGA season in the best possible fashion.

She said: “The HFGSWO Open is the season-opener of the KLPGA Tour so I really wanted to start the season great.

“Initially, I was just looking to make the cut, but now that I’ve succeeded, I see rounds three and four as a chance for a fresh start.

“I’m very happy with my game and with my iron shots. I made a lot of opportunities for myself so I was very confident in my gameplay and I was able to aggressively tackle the course.”

Defending champion Park Ji-young is tied-23rd on four-under 212 (73).

Meanwhile, Singapore amateur Chen Xingtong, the only local player to make the cut, is looking to improve on a disappointing third round. She had displayed a solid performance on Saturday morning, completing her second round with four birdies in nine holes to score six-under 66.

But she was unable to carry that momentum into the third round, hitting eight bogeys to card five-over 77. The 15-year-old sits tied-54th on one-over 217 going into the final round.

She said: “It’s been a roller coaster (today), but it’s just golf. Golf is just like that. I first finished nine holes with a 66 then I was six-over through Hole 7 and seven-over through Hole 10. Then I was able to calm myself down and finish five-over. Like I said, it’s just golf. I’m not looking forward to doing that again but it worked out.

“(My goal is to) not do what I just did. Tomorrow in the final round, I’ve got pretty much nothing to lose right now. Tomorrow I’ll just try my best to shoot a good score, try to stay consistent out there and not do what I did this afternoon.”

The 1 billion Won (S$1.1 million) HFGSWO will see the winner take home $198,000 and be crowned champion of the second edition of the tournament.

Credit: Hana Financial Group Singapore

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