Gwladys Nocera put herself in the perfect position to make amends for her play-off defeat to Charley Hull last year as she posted a third round of three under par 68 in perfect conditions at Golf de L’Ocean on Saturday.
For the second straight year, the 39-year-old Frenchwoman takes a two stroke lead into the final round at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.
The 13-time Ladies European Tour tournament champion, who claimed her most recent title at the Hero Women’s Indian Open in December, lies on 12 under par, ahead of South African Nicole Garcia.
“I was playing well the front nine and didn’t make any putts so it was nice to see the putts drop. I’m playing well,” said Nocera, who made six birdies and three bogeys in her third round.
“It’s a course where everyone can shoot a low score so I have to play really well tomorrow.”
Second year professional Garcia, 24, from Kempton Park, will be chasing her first Ladies European Tour title, although she collected a trophy on the Sunshine Ladies Tour in South Africa last month.
After recovering from a bogey on the fifth with three birdies on the sixth, 11th and 16th, she said: “I’ve never played in the final group before on the LET so I got to play with Gwladys, which was quite nice. She’s a lot more experienced than me so hopefully I’ve learned some things today. I’m just going to try to keep calm, not think about it and if it’s my day, it’s my day.”
A stroke further back in a share of third place, Finland’s Ursula Wikstrom and Eleanor Givens of England are also both hunting their first LET titles.
Wikstrom has recorded four second place finishes in 11 years on tour, while Givens’ best finish was sixth in the 2013 Turkish Airlines Ladies Open. However, the fourth year professional has fond memories of Golf de L’Ocean, where she played her first event as a professional and tied for 22nd place in 2012.
“I’m putting well and chipped in today, on number 12, so that makes a difference,” said Givens, 26, from Darlington.
“Everybody’s out there looking to win, so I’ll try to do that, but just do the things that are under my control. If I hit every shot as solidly as I can then I’ll have a good chance.”
Fellow Englishwoman Felicity Johnson lies in fifth place on seven under par and only five strokes off the lead. She is looking for a third LET title and her first since the 2011 French Open.
She said: “I feel like I left a few out there today. I hit 17 greens which is pretty good. I didn’t roll the ball as well as I have the last two days but it’s in a good place going into tomorrow.”
Last year’s Lalla Aicha Tour School winner Nanna Madsen from Denmark shares sixth place with Frenchwoman Celine Herbin and English duo Melissa Reid and Florentyna Parker.
After scraping through the cut, last year’s champion Charley Hull flew up the leader board into a tie for 28th position, with a four under par 67 to lie 11 shots off the lead.
In last year’s final round, Hull came from five strokes behind Nocera to force a play-off and claim her maiden title but it will take something special to catch the Frenchwoman this year.
The final round gets under way at 8.04am local time, with Nocera, Garcia and Givens out last at 10.19am.