Rookie Yin closes in on third straight CLPGA title

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Yin Ruoning plays a shot during the second round of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Orient Masters at Orient Xiamen in southwest China's Fujian Province on Thursday. The Shanghai native fired a 3-under-par 69 for a one-shot lead.

Yin Ruoning moved closer to her third straight win since turning professional when the Shanghai teenager shot a 3-under-par 69 on Thursday to maintain a one-shot lead after two rounds of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Orient Masters.

Through 36 holes at Orient Xiamen in Fujian Province, the 17-year-old Yin, winner of the first two legs of the China LPGA Tour season, was 7-under 137. Compatriots Zhang Jienalin (68) and Zhang Yunjie (69) were one shot back at the 500,000-yuan (US$73,250) tournament.

Zhang Yue was the top amateur as the Haikou native improved to a 68 to sit three shots back in equal fourth, tied with Liu Yan (69). Zhang Weiwei, the reigning CLPGA Tour Order of Merit champion, was a shot further back after a 71, tied with Li Dongmei (71) in equal sixth.

Yin, who won the CLPGA Tour Qualifying Tournament as an amateur in January, started the day with a one-stroke lead. After birdies at the third and fifth holes to get to 6-under, she struggled to a bogey five at the 405-yard sixth hole before picking up another stroke to make the turn at 2-under 34.

After another bogey at the 140-yard 12th hole, Yin picked up two more birdies down the stretch to maintain her advantage. She rated her round 70 out of 100 taking into account errant shots and poor chip shots

"But my approach shots were good. I got on plenty of greens even though I hit it not very solid occasionally. I have been in the final group so many times, amateur or professional, I always have a good attitude," she said.

"After the round I usually call it a day. I play digital games on my smartphone and have a good sleep with a blank mind."

Zhang Yunjie kept herself in the hunt for her first pro win when the Hainan native carded a round featuring five birdies and two bogeys.

"Since the return I have played with Yin a lot of times, including today. She was more and more confident. I couldn't play stress-free golf, but I am happy to have a solid round under pressure," said the 22-year-old. "I am in a good position. Tomorrow is a new day. I will play my own game and try to forget who I am playing with. Hopefully I can hang in there and break through."

Zhang Jienalin booked herself a spot in tomorrow's final group with an adventurous round that featured five birdies, four bogeys and an eagle two at the 350-yard 15th hole following a blast from her 50-degree wedge from 91 yards out.

"Today my mental game was far better than yesterday. I just focused on the shots ahead of me. Yesterday, I thought a lot about where my shots would land," said the Hunan native. "Yin is a good friend. I will just focus on my own game and commit myself to my shots firmly. No hesitation, no worries, just go for it."

Zhang Yue, one of China's top amateurs, continued her strong form of late with an equally erratic round that included two bogeys, four birdies and an eagle two on the 370-yard seventh hole.

"I did not feel well at the beginning, my play was not to my standard. I wouldn't say it was poor but not ideal. I said to myself there was a lot of golf to be played. The chances were on the horizon," said the 19-year-old, who last month won the third leg of the Super Lychee National Amateur Golf Futures.

"Originally I wanted to turn pro this year but the (coronavirus) pandemic delayed my plans. With another year I will work on the weak parts of my game, especially putting."

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