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Van Dam dominates, but strong pack in pursuit

Dutch birdie blitz to lead Dubai Ladies Classic at halfway stage

Image Credit: Organiser
Anne Van Dam of The Netherlands plays her second shot on the par 5, 10th hole during the second round of the 2017 Dubai Ladies Classic on the Majlis Course at The Emirates Golf Club.
Gulf News

Dubai: Anne Van Dam fired an exquisite bogey-free round of 65 to claim a two-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic, the European Tour’s season finale being played at the Emirates Golf Club’s famed Majlis course.

The 5ft 10in Dutchwoman, who started the day three shots behind overnight leader, Supamas Sangchan, reeled off three birdies in succession on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th holes, and would add four more over the course of the morning to head into the final two rounds of the season in an advantageous position.

However, Scotland’s Kelsey MacDonald threw down the gauntlet to Van Dam when she capped her equally-amazing round with a birdie blitz on the last four holes to inch with two strokes of the leader.

While Van Dam made seven birdies, highlighted by five on the front nine, MacDonald made her presence felt on the back nine, despite a bog on the par-three 11th hole.

With 36 holes to play over the next two days the leaderboard looks strong at the top with as many seven golfers, among them Sangchan and England’s European Tour Order of Merit Leader Georgia Hall, within four shots off the leader.

Australian rookie professional Celina Yuan also found herself in exalted company after playing some solid golf, where she putted for five birdies, to finish the day on six-under 137 for two rounds.

But for the most part, Thursday’s action belonged almost entirely to the long-hitting Van Dam, who was at her fiercest best on the challenging 18th hole at the Majlis.

Over the years this infamous 511-yard test of skill and resolve, has made and shattered many a golfer’s dream, but the Dane was not to be denied a mesmerising birdie finish.

Having blasted her tee-shot 350-yards down the fairway, she adroitly put her eight-iron approach shot on the green and safely two-outted for birdie.

“I haven’t been putting great at all for the last half year, but I changed putters two days ago,” said the 22-year-old from Arhem in the Netherlands.

“I went for something completely different. Normally I have face-balance and now I have toe-hang. It’s a blade, and normally I have a mallet.”

Interestingly Van Dam’s threesome including two other big-hitters featuring Brittany Lincicome and Angel Yin, who is regarded as the longest-hitter on the tour with an average driving distance of 283 yards.

“We had a lot of fun out there today and yesterday as well,” said Van Dam. “We were all under par for two days in a row and we all hit it long, so that helps, helps with the game and we all play aggressively.”

Yin, 18, who insisted on interviewing the Dane in the press centre commented: “Last year when I played with her, I was like, all that six feet height wasted, and this year was like, oh, I’m impressed.”

Even as the interview was taking place Macdonald was steading herself for her final assault after evening out two bogeys with a pair of well-struck birdies.

Saving the best for the last, the Scott birdied the par-three 15th, after landing her drive on the green from 163-yards, to safely convert the putt.

Three more would follow in rapid succession and by then she had sent out an ominous warning to Van Dam, and the rest of the field.

“There was a lot of cameras on me, kind of entering my zone, person space, and the way I hit the shot,” said the Glaswegian who is known for her sartorial elegance on the tour,

“I’m very quick, so I kind of got a little distracted at times and maybe hit some poor shots today that I wouldn’t have previously.

“But I’ve got to just learn from that and if I’m in contention, it’s going to happen a lot.

“But obviously having Katy (McNicoll), one of my best friends, on the bag (helps), she just kept me more in the zone and I just went through my routine.”

Meanwhile, Georgia Hall also made her move up the leaderboard with the help of six birdies, including a beautifully struck 30-foot gem on the ninth, her last hole of the round.

“I did putt well today and I wanted to take advantage of the morning round, because the greens were in better condition and less wind, so I’m glad I did it,” said Hall.

“I woke up at midnight and didn’t get back to sleep. I wasn’t in the best of moods today. I’m quite tired, but I played well.”