Indian teenager Aditi Ashok fired a spectacular second round of three-under-par 69 on the extremely challenging Gary Player Course at DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon on Saturday to take a two stroke lead into the final round of the Hero Women’s Indian Open.
With a 36-hole total of three-under-par, the 18-year-old Ladies European Tour rookie professional from Bangalore is two clear of Belen Mozo from Spain, Austrian Christine Wolf (below) and the defending champion Emily Kristine Pedersen from Denmark.
Ashok, who won the LET’s Lalla Aicha Tour School in December and represented her country at the Olympic Games in August, now has the opportunity to become the first Indian player to win on the Ladies European Tour and not only that, on one of the toughest courses on the circuit and in her home country.
It would seal her superstar status in India, where women’s golf is fairly new, this being the 10th edition of the championship. Indian players have contended on numerous occasions and Ashok herself finished tied for eighth as an amateur in the tournament in 2012.
This is her sixth appearance in the event, but her first as a professional and after opening with a level par 72 on Friday, she played the front nine in two-over on Saturday afternoon, before firing five birdies on the back nine to become the first Indian player to lead on the LET.
She started with a birdie on the second hole, but bogeyed the sixth and then double bogeyed the ninth after hitting her second shot into the lake protecting the green. She then birdied holes 11, 13, 15, 17 and 18 for a back nine of 31.
“I was really sharp on the back nine,” Ashok said. “I hit all nine greens, so I had a lot of chances for birdie and I made five of them. It could have been better on the front nine, because I had a double bogey on the ninth with my 50 degree, but I was in the wrong spot off the tee and it’s tough to hit that pin from the rough. I missed a few putts on the front nine and some short birdie putts but I made up for it on the back nine. I’ve got more comfortable over the week, from all the practise rounds, so I think it’s much better and the greens are softer than last year.”
When asked about her approach to the final round, she added: “I’ve made enough birdies in both of the rounds so I’m going to focus on not dropping any shots.”
First round co-leader Wolf needed a birdie on her final hole, the ninth, to tie for the lead, but dropped a shot for a 73. She said: “I gave myself some chances but unfortunately didn’t make any of them. There were some birdies out there, but anything can happen on this course so we’ll see on this course, anything can happen tomorrow. I’m going to try to have fun.”
Meanwhile Pedersen, (above) who led wire to wire to win last year, had a 72 and Mozo, whose brother Jesus was caddying for Ashok in the same group, had a second-round 70. There are three players a stroke further back on level par who are just three strokes from the lead. They are Kiran Matharu, who is looking for a top three position to secure her LET card for 2017, first round co-leader Anne-Lise Caudal, who has two wins on the LET and Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul.
Fellow Thai player Supamas Sangchan, who won the Sanya Ladies Open a fortnight ago, shares eighth place on one-over-par with Malene Jorgensen and Brittany Lincicome but it is Ashok who will carry the hopes of the home nation in the final round.
Play gets under way from 7.30am and she tees off at 9.15am with Mozo (below) and Pedersen.