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4 South Koreans tied for 1st avoid highs, lows


I.K. Kim reacts to missing a birdie putt on Hole 18 during the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio.

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With the 27th Jamie Farr Toledo Classic ready to be decided today at Highland Meadows Golf Club, there is one essential question.

How do you untie a South Korean knot?

After Saturday's third round in one of the LPGA's longest-running events, four players are tied for the lead at 11-under-par 202.

All four — I.K. Kim, So Yeon Ryu, Hee Kyung Seo, and Jayai Shin — hail from South Korea.

Photo gallery: Jamie Farr Classic: Aug. 11

Through three rounds, remarkably, none of the four have shot a score over 69 or under 66.

Thus, it is no big revelation that the buzzword most often used by the talented Asian contingent to describe their success on the course is "consistency."

"You've got to hit pretty straight," said Kim of negotiating Highland Meadows. "You have to be consistent. I think all the Korean players are pretty consistent with the ball-striking. [On] this golf course, you have some opportunities.

"I had a good day. I think overnight it rained a lot, so the course was definitely playing more soft. The greens were rolling a little slower than [Friday] because of the rain. Sometimes it's really hard to adapt to that right away, but I think I did that pretty well today. That was the key with the putting."

Kim, who shot a 5-under par 66 Saturday, nearly won here two years ago, when she and two others Kims (Song-Hee and Christina) lost in a playoff to Na Yeon Choi.

"The last few tournaments I pretty [much] struggled with my putting, but now it's really great," Ryu said. "I hope [today] my putting is working really great again. The greens are really soft, so it's really easy to make the birdie chance."

Ryu, who shot 4-under Saturday, is an LPGA rookie looking for her first tour victory as a member. But she does already have a major victory on her resume, having captured the 2011 U.S. Women's Open in a playoff.

"The shot was better than [Friday], so I can see through it to the target," Seo, who fired a 68, said of her adjustment from the second round.

"I made a lot of good putts. I started with a bogey, but I tried to be patient. I think it's very important to keep in the fairway. It's a little soft now. The tee shot is very important. I'll just keep doing my thing. I will try to just take my time every shot, try not to make mistakes."

Seo, who has one tour victory to her credit, was the LPGA's 2011 Rolex rookie of the year.

"Today was another wet day, so I just tried to keep focused, do not make the bogey," Shin said of her careful approach which led to a 5-under 66. "I made five birdies today. My shot was getting better than [Friday], so I played much easier today.

"That's why I [have] played so good this week, because my strength is consistency. I think the Korean players [are] pretty strong with the consistency. A lot of Korean players have a chance to win this week. Today I just focused on my game, my swing tempo. It was working today, so hopefully it works [again]."

Shin has eight tour victories, 46 top-10 finishes, and $4,670,402 in her three-plus years as an LPGA member, but is looking for her first win in 2012.

The lead foursome holds a one-shot lead over two other South Korean players — Inbee Park and second-round leader Chella Choi. Joining them at 10-under 203 is Japan's Mika Miyazato, the only golfer to break with the theme.

South Korean dominance on the LPGA tour is no big secret, especially here at the Meadows in Sylvania.

Since Se Ri Pak, the pioneer of the South Korean women's golf wave, broke the ice here in 1998, eight of the last 13 Farr Classic champions have come from that country. Pak collected five of those, and she was joined by three fellow countrywomen whom she inspired — Mi Hyun Kim in 2006, Eunjung Yi in 2009, and Na Yeon Choi in 2010, the last time the tournament was held here.

The only American players in contention are Angela Stanford and Jacqui Concolino, who are each three shots back at 205, and Jennie Lee, who is in a three-way tie for 12th at 206.

"It's nice to have an opportunity again," Stanford said. "I started out the year pretty strong and I just haven't been doing a lot of things right ever since. It's kind of nice to have some rhythm out there and have an opportunity [today]."

Added Concolino: "I missed some short putts for birdies on the beginning of the back nine, but other than that, I just tried to stick to the game plan of making the fairways and greens, and making the putts when given."

First-round leader Pernilla Lindberg of Sweden, and South Korea's Hee-Won Han are tied with Stanford and Concolino for eighth place heading into today's final round.

Tied with Lee in 12th are Karine Icher of France, and Beatriz Recari of Spain. The first-place prize money in the $1.3 million Farr Classic is $195,000.

Contact Steve Junga at: 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.

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