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Jiyai Shin sleeps in and holds one-shot lead over Sandra Gal

Gal has to play 27 holes in the Kia Classic. It appears to be a two-woman race at Industry Hills.

March 26, 2011|By Diane Pucin
  • Jiyai Shin hits a shot on the third hole during the third round of the Kia Classic at the Industry Hills Golf Club on Saturday.
Jiyai Shin hits a shot on the third hole during the third round of the Kia Classic… (Scott Halleran / Getty Images )

They couldn't be more different, the 5-foot-1 Jiyai Shin and the 6-foot Sandra Gal.

Shin, from South Korea, wore yellow Saturday at the Kia Classic at Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms. Gal was dressed in black. Shin got to sleep in Saturday, securely finished with two rounds Friday. Gal had to be on the course more than 12 hours Saturday, had to play 27 holes because of the weather problems the first two days.

But after Shin plunked a ball into the water on the 18th hole of her third round Saturday in the chill and fading light, there was only one difference that mattered.

A stroke.

Shin and Gal each shot three-under-par third-round 70s. That put Shin at 15-under 204 going into Sunday's final round, one shot better than Gal.

Kia Classic leaderboard

The round of the day belonged to another South Korean, Na Yeon Choi, who shot an eight-under 65 and jumped from a tie for 21st into sole possession of third place. Still, that's six shots behind Shin.

First-round leader Amanda Blumenherst and Mindy Kim, who is from nearby Diamond Bar, are the top Americans heading into the final round. They're tied for sixth at six under.

Kim in particular has something special to aim for. Next week the women play their first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage. The top 10 finishers this week who haven't already qualified will earn a start and right now Kim is No. 1 on that list.

And 50-year-old Juli Inkster heard plenty of hoots and hollers in her direction as she fired a four-under 69 that left her tied for eighth with Michelle Wie and Spain's Beatriz Recari.

Shin had built a four-shot lead after her second round of 64 Friday that featured nine birdies and no bogeys. And while 72 golfers, including Gal, had to finish their second rounds Saturday morning, Shin was able to sleep in.

Gal was out warming up at 6:10 a.m. Saturday and didn't get off the course until almost 7:10 p.m. But Shin's sleep-in seemed to be a bit of a momentum killer. Shin had described her Friday round as a trip on "the birdie bus." Saturday the first birdie didn't arrive until the ninth hole. There were two more at 10 and 11 and then two more at 15 and 17, but Shin rushed to the par-five 18th hole and made a mistake.

"It was getting dark," Shin said. "I hurried myself a little bit. I missed on my timing and hit a big hook."

The damage might have been worse. Shin recovered well enough to escape with a bogey, just good enough to hang on to the lead.

Gal said she didn't feel at a disadvantage having to play so early. "I got a feel for the course and the conditions," she said. And she also took some encouragement from Shin's last-hole mistake. "I told my caddie, 'Wow, she's not a machine.' I thought she was."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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