GOLF officials denied rumors of a malaria outbreak on the LPGA Tour yesterday after Natalie Gulbis and Pak Se-ri pulled out of the HSBC Women's Champions due to illness and staff members also fell sick.
Tournament officials said South Korea's Pak had been cleared of malaria, while American Gulbis was awaiting test results but attended a function in Singapore on Friday and did not appear to be seriously ill.
"Pak Se-ri withdrew this week due to illness. She does not have malaria, just flu-like symptoms," said a spokesperson for the LPGA Tour. "Natalie Gulbis withdrew from the event on Friday due to illness. She is getting checked in Singapore, but has not been given a diagnosis yet. LPGA officials are in contact with both players."
Some of the LPGA's rules officials have also fallen ill but they have not been diagnosed with malaria and were still going about their duties, officials added.
Fears of an outbreak swirled after top coach Butch Harmon tweeted that Gulbis and Pak, who withdrew on Wednesday and is now back in South Korea, were in hospital in Singapore with malaria.
Three players were also involved in a car crash last Sunday in Bangkok, after the LPGA Thailand, which left Paula Creamer and Ai Miyazato with whiplash injuries. Miyazato, a former winner of the Singapore event, was forced to pull out.
On the course, South Korea's Choi Na-yeon birdied the 18th hole after a lengthy rain delay yesterday to take a share of the lead with American Stacy Lewis at 14-under 202 ahead of the final round of the HSBC Women's Champions.
Choi shot a 5-under 67 in the third round, while overnight leader Lewis had a 69.
Creamer also had a 69 to move into third place at 12-under 204.
Lewis and Choi were in the last group on the course and had just teed off on the 18th hole when a thunderstorm rolled in, causing play to be suspended for nearly 2 1/2 hours.