The concurrently held Fortinet Australian PGA and WPGA Championships have been considered a great success by all. Yet the mixed groups of men and women have created some confusion among those trying to win the inaugural Karrie Webb Cup.
“No, I didn’t know that,” Oh said when asked if she knew she was leading the tournament after signing for her three-under 68 to lead Grace Kim and Sarah Jane Smith by two shots with 18 holes to play.
Early in the week, the mixed groups offered a unique atmosphere welcomed by all and sundry, but a lack of leaderboards meant Oh, Kim and Smith were playing somewhat blind. Tournament organisers reportedly even considering making a change to the groups for Sunday before continuing with the original plan.
“Well, it’s going to be hard to know what the score is. I thought there were lots of leaderboards, but there’s only one on like 9 and maybe one or two on the back nine, so if we’re doing split groups again for the girls, it’s just going to be try your best and see where you end up I think,” Oh, who sits at seven-under-par, said when asked how she will approach Sunday’s battle with the rising star Kim and Tour veteran Smith.
“That’s kind of golf anyway really. It’s not like tennis where you’re playing against one another, so maybe you know, if you know what’s going on within the group you might change the way you play, which can be good, can be bad, I guess sometimes, which is interesting.”
RIGHT: Sarah Jane Smith sits in a share of second with Grace Kim following a rollercoaster round on Saturday. PHOTO: PGA Tour of Australasia.
Interesting is a perfect way to describe the seesawing battle between the three main contenders on Saturday, with the lead changing with regularity and everything from double bogeys to hole out eagles.
Smith would have almost been hoping for a par early in her round after starting with a bogey then dunking her second at the par-4 5th hole. The up-and-down round continuing for the Queenslander who made two more bogeys and a double before signing for a 69 to sit at five-under alongside Kim.
“It was all over the place,” Smith said of her round. “I felt like I played really solid and smart in places and then made some really silly mistakes, but I still hit the ball really well, so looking forward to tomorrow.”
For her part, Kim was visibly disappointed after an even par 71 with a back nine double bogey at the par-5 15th and bogey at the next. Still only two shots back of Oh, the former amateur star was upbeat about having another chance to secure her maiden professional win and once again prove her qualities as a player against LPGA regulars Oh and Smith.
“It’s obviously really good to always be up there,” Kim said. “I think also to be able to chase someone is pretty exciting. I obviously didn’t end it the way I wanted it to, but hopefully I’ll have a lot more pots drop in tomorrow.
“I’m probably the only one who doesn’t really have a full U.S. card, but it’s really comforting to know that I’m able to compete against them and obviously they’re quite high up in the LPGA ranks, so I’m just loving where I am right now, honestly. I’m just enjoying my week.”
With the men’s event seemingly a forgone conclusion after Jed Morgan’s dominant display at Royal Queensland, the women’s event shapes as a thrilling contest on Sunday, even with the unique groupings once again in place.
Smith is looking for a first significant win in a long time and said sharing a drink out of the Karrie Webb Cup with its namesake would be “incredible”, while Oh is looking to break a win drought of her own. The Victorian last winning in 2015 at the now defunct Australian Ladies Masters.
And while players like Julienne Soo (-2) and Karis Davidson (even) will still like their chances, Oh was happier with her play on Saturday having struggled with her swing and putting at various times during the week around a venue she described as “tricky”, making her the clear favourite to claim the $180,000 prize for first.
A prize and win that although it may feel a little strange courtesy of the tee time situation and with a field of just 24, would still be a win. One that Oh has felt coming for some time.
“I mean, finishing second’s always a little bit annoying, but I think if I can just keep knocking on that door, I’m sure I can get the job done.”