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Before the Off

Gone are the days when spectators would only roll up in time to see the leaders teeing off on the third day of a golf tournament. At this weeks HSBC Women’s World Championship, Sentosa was buzzing from the start, with people happily prepared to join in with an early-morning yoga session in the tented village.

And as if that was not enough, there were plenty of concurrent opportunities on the go, with particular reference to swing testing for power and playing against other in what is called an Augmented Reality  Putting Challenge.

Children were having a ball, though their insistence on having ice-creams at nine o’clock in the morning hardly augured well for how long they would last once the golf under-way.

The competitors, meantime, were serving as a backcloth to all of this activity while preparing for their third rounds. Amy Olson, the leader on seven under par, was two shots clear but as many as five top players were only two shots to her rear – Azahara Munoz, Inbee Park, Ariya Jutanugarn, Minjee Lee and Jodi Ewart Shadoff.

Each had her own different ways when the time arrived to head for the first tee. Having signed off from putting practice, the last thing they tended to consign to their bags was their mobile phones. Munoz was one who made a quick check for messages when she arrived on the tee though, the moment the Starter called, “Two minutes, Ladies”, her phone disappeared and she closed her eyes until the gentleman made his “One Minute” announcement.

Jutanugarn, for her part, was making an obvious effort to do everything slowly, no doubt in a bid not to return to her old ways of rushing under stress. She had almost sauntered around the putting green, listening to music and sometimes singing to herself as she holed a series of effortless putts.

Putting was what she was hoping to do better after a second round in which one putt after another had refused to drop. (Today, there were fewer refusals, with the Thai player making three birdies in five holes from the fourth.)

As for Olson, she may never have won before but she was the coolest of the lot of them on the tee and stayed looking cool as she waited, patiently, for her putts to go down.  She had disarmed her followers by thanking them for coming out to watch

The only one of the leaders not to hit bang down the middle at the first was Australia’s Minjee Lee who, though she hauled her shot into the rough down the left, soon put that errant shot behind her by salvaging a par and playing her way to the turn in 33.

Then eight under par for the tournament, she was sharing her second slot on the leaderboard with Ariya, with that quiet assassin, Sung Hyun Park leading the way on nine under after turning in 31.