News // Furue Walks Tall

Furue Walks Tall

Walking tall is arguably more important than being tall. At precisely five feet, the 23-year-old Ayaka Furue charged round Singapore’s Tanjong Course in 68 to be ten under par and two ahead going into the final round of Asia’s major, the HSBC Women’s World Championship.  Hannah Green is alone on 8 under after following one 67 with another, with Andrea Lee and Celine Boutier lurking in joint third place on seven under.

With so many fine players so close at her heels, Furue will need to crack on with the same confidence that she showed in a third round which started with back-to-back birdies. A dramatic burst of Singaporean rain interfered with her playing of the 16th but, after her third threatened to splash from the watery green into the lake, she ended up chipping stiff to escape with a par.

“I was just thinking about catching up with Celine,” she said of Boutier, the half-way leader. “I was making birdies and feeling good.”

Alison Nicholas who was shortest player – the same 5 ft as Furue – to win a regular major when she captured the 1997 US Open, used to make the humorous boast that she was “big in Japan”. The truth today is that neither she nor Furue would be big in Japan in that the average women’s height in that land is now 5ft 2ins or four inches more than it was 100 years ago.

Green, who was probably among those who could not wait to get back to base at a time when a major storm was threatening, shot up the leaderboard with birdies at the 12th, 16th and 18th. As for Lee and Boutier, Lee felt good about her 67, and Boutier not so good about the 72 with which she followed her second-round 64. “My long game,” she said, “was definitely not as strong as yesterday but I was able to save a lot of pars.”  Yet it was hardly surprising that she was feeling a certain degree of pride at having slipped no further down the leaderboard than from first to third: “I’m happy to have another chance at it tomorrow”.

Though Brooke Henderson has recovered from an opening 75 to be five off the lead, you had to feel sorry for her when the cameras were showing shots of the rain thrashing against her glasses. She has been wearing glasses on the course since last August and loves the fact that she is no longer having to rely so heavily on her sister-cum-caddie to tell her what lies ahead.

David Duval, Justin Rose and John Daly have all worn glasses for golf in their time, while Phil Mickelson, would you believe, makes a habit of wearing special sunglasses on overcast and rainy days because they “add light, help me to read greens and protect my eyes from the rain.”

Lilia Vu, World Number No 1, may have had no birdies in her second round 74 but, much to her relief, her putter was back in form as she had five putts fewer to be among a quartet on six under to Furue’s ten.

“I knew that I wasn’t myself yesterday,” she said, “so I was just waiting for today to come so that I could make more birdies.”  That she finished off with a bogey was not as upsetting as it might have been because she was off to see Taylor Swift as, indeed was Andrea Lee along with plenty of others.

The wind is expected to pick up for the final round along with the excitement levels when so many top players are still in the game.

Furue, though will be focusing on her own play. Partly because she has her heart set on capturing the win which would give her a place in this year’s Olympics, and partly because her height has dictated that should not be looking or caring about the others.

Though No 1 in the putting stats so far this week, she has always been the shortest driver. “I don’t,” she explained, “really think about how far the others hit when I’m hitting my shot… I just hit straight.”

Any further than ten metres wide of the middle of the fairway might disappoint but not too much else.