Incheon, South Korea (SportsNetwork.com) - Kyu Jung Baek and Hee-Kyung Bae emerged from the pack to take the third-round lead after matching, 4-under 68s at the LPGA KEB - HanaBank Championship.
Both Baek and Bae are playing in their first event on the LPGA Tour and they finished 54 holes at 5-under-par 211 on their home soil.
Fellow South Koreans Inbee Park (68), In Gee Chun (69), Yoon Kyung Heo (70) and Ilhee Lee (71) are right behind Baek and Bae at 4-under 212. They are joined in a 10-way tie for third by Pornanong Phatlum (69), Sandra Gal (71), Suzann Pettersen (71), Brittany Lincicome (72), Beatriz Recari (72) and second-round leader Karine Icher (73).
Michelle Wie, who is playing for the first time since withdrawing from her last two events due to a hand injury, vaulted up the leaderboard with a 5- under 67 and she is tied for 13th at 3-under 213 with Angela Stanford (68), Cristie Kerr (69), Catriona Matthew (70) and Azahara Munoz (72).
Starting the day four shots behind the leader Icher, Baek began with three straight pars before she started to make her move on the Ocean Course at Sky 72 Golf Club. Baek drained three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 4 to get to minus-3. She gave one of those shots back on No. 9 with a bogey and Baek made the turn at 2-under.
Three pars from No. 10 preceded Baek's fourth birdie on No. 13. Two holes later, Baek made another gain on 15. She dropped another shot on No. 17, but rebounded quickly with a birdie at the last to end on a high note.
"I think my putting was strong today and my shot was relatively weaker compared to my putting," Baek said. "But I think I was able to manage my game because I did a lot of par saves. And so ultimately, I was able to get a low score."
Bae, also starting four shots back, cruised through her first 10 holes with 10 straight pars, saving her birdies for the back nine. Bae finally drained her first birdie on No. 11, getting her to minus-2 for the week. Following a par on 12, Bae poured in three straight birdies from 13, getting her to minus-5. After a par on 16, Bae finished up with a bogey on 17 and a birdie on 18 to join Baek atop the leaderboard.
"I think my iron shots today were strong, but my putting wasn't especially strong," said Bae. "So especially in the front nine, I would make it on the green pretty close but then my putt wouldn't drop. So then after making the first birdie on the back nine, I really picked up momentum and in the back nine, my putting was stronger and my shots were stronger and I just took advantage of the fact that the tee boxes were closer on the back nine."
Park, a five-time major champion, made two birdies on the front nine at four and six. On the back side, Park drained back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12. She traded a birdie on 15 with a bogey on 16 and Park finished up with two pars to end one behind the leaders.
Like Bae, Wie did not make her move until the back nine either as she finished the front nine at even par with a bogey on three and a birdie on five. Wie made a pair of birdies on 10 and 11, but gave one of those shots back with a bogey on 13. Wie finished strong, however, as she rattled off four birdies in a five-hole stretch from No. 14.
NOTES: There are a total of seven players from South Korea within the top 20 on the leaderboard ... First-round leader Haeji Kang, who shot a 5-under 67 in round one, has struggled in her last two rounds with a 75 on Friday and a 79 on Saturday. She is tied for 49th at 5-over 221.