Photo courtesy: Ladies European Tour
By Kent Gray
Charley Hull has a second Ladies European Tour (LET) and third worldwide title within her sights entering the final round of the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open.
The 22-year-old Englishwoman will take a one stroke lead over fellow English Solheim Cupper Jodi Ewart Shadoff into Saturday’s final round of the 54-hole LET season opener at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.
Hull negotiated a breezy Friday in Abu Dhabi to sign for a level par 72 after her opening 67 to be -5 for the championship through 36 holes.
Shadoff, meanwhile, nabbed two birdies in her last three holes for a two-under 70, matching her opening round score and tying the best round of the day with just three other players.
A stroke further back in a share of third are Marianne Skarpnord, who posted a 70, Cajsa Persson, who had a 71 and Luna Sobron, who carded a 72, on a day when only 11 players managed to break par.
Hull played the front nine in level par after making her first birdie on the par-5 2nd hole, but bogeyed the 6th and 8th, before making another birdie on the long ninth.
She dropped into a share of the lead with Sobron after another bogey on 13, but regained her lead with a gutsy birdie on the par-3 17th, rolling in her 15-foot putt after finding the green despite gusty 25mph winds blowing in across the Arabian Gulf.
“It was really tough out there today,” said Hull.
“To give you an example, I flushed a 7-iron 118 yards on hole 17. The pin was 120 yards and I still came up short. I usually hit that club 165-170 yards, so that is a ridiculous wind.
“It was lucky that we had Tifdwarf Bermuda grass on the greens, because in the UK the ball would have been oscillating. “
Hull won the LET’s Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco in 2014 and the LPGA’s season-ending CME Globe in Florida two years later but knows Saturday won’t be easy.
“I’ve still got loads to work on for tomorrow’s round but I feel good with where my game’s at. Hopefully it’s not as windy, because my new irons are going super spinny, so it’s not ideal in this wind.”
Shadoff is chasing a maiden professional win. The 30-year-old from Northallerton admits she is not a fan of linksy golf so was thilled with her Friday performance.
“Shooting 70 today definitely felt much lower than the previous day. It was brutal and I hit 16 greens, which was really solid for these conditions. I hit two good putts on 16 and 17 which really helps,” she said.
“I had a 7-iron into 16 from about 129 yards, straight into the wind and I holed about a 15 footer. On 17, it was about the same yardage and same size putt, so two decent putt lengths.”
Sobron, 24, from Mallorca is another serious contender, looking for her first Ladies European Tour win. She carded the course record of 10-under-par 62 in the tournament’s last staging and grew up playing in the wind.
Norwegian Skarpnord is a three-time winner on the LET but hasn’t won on the tour since the rain-hit South African Women’s Open in 2013, although she did win the 2015 Vic Open on a links course.
Sweden’s Persson teamed up with Linda Wessberg to win a gold medal in the European Team Golf Championships at Gleneagles in July, but is looking for her first individual title.
The other players rounding out the top 10 are Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Sarah Kemp and Nicole Broch Larsen in joint sixth on two-under, Rebecca Artis in ninth on one-under and Amy Boulden in 10thposition on level par.