Ji-Yai Shin made 5 birdies in the 3rd round of the ISPS HANDA Australian Women's Open, but actually fell another shot behind leader Ya Ni Tseng, who made 6 (all of them after an uncharacteristic 3-putt bogey on the par-5 2nd hole). At -14 through 54 holes, Tseng is 3-up on Shin, 4-up on playing partner Eun-Hee Ji, and 6-up on Katherine Hull, who fired a 7-birdie 67 to pass Mariajo Uribe at -7, Sandra Gal, Tiffany Joh, Cindy LaCrosse, and Nikki Campbell at -6, and Lee-Anne Pace, Jennifer Song, Nikki Garrett, and 13-year-old Lydia Ko at -5.
So unless any of these other players do something incredibly special tomorrow, that head-to-head showdown between the world #1 and last year's LPGA Player of the Year that I cautioned you against anticipating yesterday is likely to be a reality tomorrow. I don't see Shin backing down tomorrow, nor do I see the defending champion coming back to earth. Tseng's outdriving Shin by about 25 yards (at least on the holes the LET measures to determine driving distance--it could well be more in reality!) but hitting fairways at an 80% rate, and even though Shin's hitting them at an almost 90% rate, it's Tseng who's hitting more greens in regulation (90.74% to 87.04%). It's all going to come down to who puts herself in better position to sink a lot of birdie putts tomorrow--and who can make more of them. But if either of them falter, don't be surprised to see Eun-Hee Ji take the win. Ji, who's still struggling to overcome her own U.S. Women's Open jinx, is playing almost as great as Tseng and Shin from tee to green, and had another very good putting day today. It would be a very big deal if the LPGA classmate of In-Kyung Kim, Song-Hee Kim, and Inbee Park were to return to their level in 2011--that is, among the very best in the world of women's golf. Well, the best way to join the best is to beat the best, so let's see if the dark horse can prevail tomorrow. There'll certainly be a lot less pressure on Ji than on Tseng and Shin.
[Update 1 (4:52 am): It cracks me up that Aussie journalist Mark Hayes is so excited about Ko that he gets the number of birdies Head Aussie in Charge for the Time Being Katherine Hull made wrong.]