Dubai: Overnight leader Caroline Hedwall of Sweden continued with her fine run heading into Friday’s final round to maintain a narrow one-stroke lead at nine under-par from England’s Meghan MacLaren at the Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic late on Thursday.
The 31-year-old Swede added a bogey-free round of 70 to her overnight effort of 65 to keep a narrow one-shot lead over MacLaren even as the duo of Minjee Lee and Laura Fuenfstueck lurk around another shot adrift in tied third heading into the final round at the Faldo Course of Emirates Golf Club.
With just 18 holes to go, the Swede might not have had her best golf on display, but again looked in control from tee to green as she returned her second successive bogey-free round that included 16 pars and two birdies.
“I have been playing very steady, hitting a lot of greens and I’ve been good within two metres of the hole. Today, I had a lot of putts that didn’t drop so maybe five under would have been a fair score but I’m in a good position for tomorrow and I am happy with my game,” she said.
With all 56 players having enjoyed one round under the floodlights, Friday’s draw sees the format change from a pro-am to a regular three-ball shotgun start, with the leading group of Hedwall, MacLaren and Minjee Lee teeing off from the first.
Chasing a seventh LET title, the four-time Solheim Cup star will be in search of her first LET trophy since the 2018 Lacoste Ladies Open de France and will battle it out against a packed international leaderboard containing as many as nine different nationalities in the top-ten, that includes former World No. 1 Lydia Ko and the highest ranked player in the field, Minjee Lee.
Most leaders of an LET tournament would think their day was complete once their scorecard was signed. But not Hedwall, who headed straight back to the hotel to work on a project she took on during the first COVID-19 lockdown in April.
“I am actually studying criminology at the moment to try and get a degree. It is nice to have something to focus on when you are back in the room. It is stressful at times with 100 per cent of the course completed remotely. I’ve been doing lots of essays and I have one to do tonight as the deadline is tomorrow,” she related.
Luckily Friday’s final round doesn’t begin until 5pm, giving Hedwall adequate time to turn in her papers before the deadline.
Two-time LET winner MacLaren is her nearest challenger, lying just one-shot back at 8- under after recording her second round of 67 (-5) in the Dubai sun. “I enjoy the conditions here, the course is in great condition and you just have to look around, it’s a great place to be. The good weather is a plus and it’s nice to come back somewhere you’ve been before. I’ve learnt from last year,” the 26-year-old from Wellingborough, said.
Expecting to prosper more on the greens in the daylight but looking to make a move later in the evening, MacLaren added: “I thought I’d find the greens easier today but to be honest I didn’t. I don’t know if I am overthinking it now but on the whole, I’ve been rolling it well all week. It’s the biggest improvement of my game and I feel that I can take advantage of my good play and make more out of my rounds.”
Lurking a stroke further adrift at seven-under-par after a sublime 65 (-7), which included a front nine of 30 strokes, is Australian Minjee Lee and Germany’s Laura Fuenfstueck — the German who had been tied second at the end of Round One on Wednesday.
1. Caroline Hedwall (Sweden) 65, 70 (135) -9
2. Meghan MacLaren (England) 69, 67 (136)
3. Minjee Lee (Australia) 72, 65 (137) -7
3. Laura Fuenfstueck (Germany) 67, 67 (137) -7
5. Celine Boutier (France) 67, 71 (138) -6
5. Lydia Ko (New Zealand) 68, 70 (138) -6