Teen phenom Lydia Ko, Jiyai Shin share lead heading into Australian Women’s Open finale

Harry How

Lydia Ko, 15, is on the cusp of her fourth victory in a professional tournament after matching Jiyai Shin’s third-round 3-under 70 and sharing the 17-under lead with the eighth-ranked golfer heading into Sunday’s finale of the Australian Women’s Open.

A triumph for Ko would make two in seven days after the teen prodigy won last week’s New Zealand Open. Whatever the outcome, the South Korean-born Kiwi resident will have to turn it around quickly, with her next bout, the Honda LPGA Thailand, scheduled to start on Thursday.

“I played nine holes on Monday, 18 Tuesday, 18 Wednesday and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday as well. So yeah, I’ve been playing quite a lot of golf and I played like pretty much every single day until the New Zealand Open as well for two weeks,” Ko told reporters after carding five birdies and two bogeys in Saturday’s third round. “I mean, I’m feeling okay now but probably after tomorrow I’ll be a bit tired. But then I’ve got Thailand Open the week after, so hopefully I won’t be that fatigued.”

Luckily for the ranking U.S. Amateur champ, she has really young legs -- a fact that Shin, an 11-time tour winner, noted during her press conference.

“I’m young,” Shin, 24, said about her final-round playing partner, who became the youngest winner in tour history at last year’s Canadian Women’s Open with Shin alongside. “She’s just baby.”

Ko, who Saturday wrapped an ice-cold kerchief around her neck to keep her cool in the heat at Royal Canberra Golf Club, indicated that familiarity with Shin’s game could help calm any nerves that might fray during Sunday’s competition.

“It doesn’t really give me an advantage because we’re pretty much on the same score,” Ko said. “But yeah, I guess I played alongside her before, so yeah, it does make it a little more comfortable.”

In other action, 2012 Player of the Year Stacy Lewis turned 28 on February 16 and celebrated with six birdies and two bogeys to bounce from T40 to T15 at 7-under....World No. 1 Yani Tseng continued her up-and-down week with a third-round 71 and will start out Sunday with a share of fourth, eight shots back of the leaders....Michelle Wie, Ko’s (earlier) childhood idol, missed the 36-hole cut, finishing at 1-over in her two rounds. Wie, who cheered herself up with a visit to the Canberra zoo after bowing out of the on-course proceedings, presaged Thursday’s delay of game with an instagr.am photo earlier in the week of a family of kangaroos who seemed as curious about the former pre-teen phenom as she was about them.

In case you missed it, here’s another look at the golf course residents who wanted in on the action:


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