Local player Caroline Hedwall fired a third-round of five-under-par 67 in warm and windy conditions at Vasatorp’s Tournament Course on Saturday to take a four stroke lead into the final day at the Helsingborg Open.
The 24-year-old Swede had five birdies on the front nine, including three in a row from the fourth, to grab the lead and built on that with a steady level par back nine.
At 206, 10-under-par, the Solheim Cup star was four clear of South African Lee-Anne Pace and second-round leader Valentine Derrey of France, who carded third rounds of 73 and 74 respectively.
Hedwall’s third-round score was the best of the day by three strokes and, after her epic performance at The Solheim Cup in Colorado last month, she once again proved the player that rises to the big occasion.
A sizeable gallery of 7,500 spectators lined the fairways and greens to watch the all-Swedish three-ball of Hedwall, Pernilla Lindberg and Camilla Lennarth.
While Lindberg and Lennarth slipped down the leader board with respective rounds of 75 and 77, Hedwall stood firm in the blustery conditions and is ideally placed to collect her sixth LET win and first since Austria last year.
“I think I just got into the flow. I hit it really close on four, five and six and it helps when you don’t have to concentrate on the putts,” said Hedwall, whose family home is 15 minutes from the venue.
“I’ve been hitting the ball really solid the last two months and I’m very happy with it and this week I’ve been able to hole a couple of putts. It’s probably the best I’ve ever played.
“Three holes in a row it was tap in birdies. I’m very happy with five-under today and it’s a really good score in these conditions. I really enjoyed it. It makes it so much more fun playing in front of a big crowd and I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Derrey remained in the hunt despite a triple bogey on nine, when she took three chips to get onto the green. “I was playing good golf: a birdie on eight and triple bogey on nine but I stayed patient for the rest of the round. When you got to 10, 11, 12, 13, you could feel the wind, but it was less windy after 16.”
Pace had several birdie putts which finished just short of the hole but said: “I didn’t hit it as well as yesterday. My driving was okay and my putting was solid but under par in the beginning. My coach is here so will go and see him after this. Tomorrow anything can happen if I get a quick start; maybe I can catch her.”
Denmark’s Malene Jorgensen and Australian Rebecca Artis were a stroke further back in a share of fourth place. Jorgensen, from nearby Odense two hours from Copenhagen, felt as though she was playing for a home crowd.
“I played really well and hit some good shots but it was tough out there. I’m happy with minus one today. It’s lovely to have so many people around me and I can understand Swedish so it’s close to home,” she said.
World No.10 I.K. Kim from South Korea, who led after the first round, started well with two birdies on the front nine but had a nightmare back nine with a double on 10 and three bogeys to come home in 41. She dropped into a share of sixth place with Linda Wessberg, while fellow Swede Anna Nordqvist was a shot back in equal eighth.
The fourth round gets under way at 9:35 on Sunday morning, with the leading trio of Hedwall, Pace and Derrey starting at 11:25. The winner will earn a place in next week’s Evian Championship and a first prize of €37,500.