American Stacy Lewis and Australian Kristie Smith take a narrow lead in into the third round of the ANZ RACV Ladies Masters after shooting identical rounds of 67 and 65 at the Royal Pines resort on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
This left them at 12 under par and a shot clear of world No. 2 Yani Tseng who left the course frustrated despite shooting a bogey-free 66 against par of 72.
On a day of low scoring in near perfect conditions, a further six players – Ashleigh Simon of South Africa, Sandra Gal of Germany, Shin-Ae Ahn of Korea, Melissa Reid of England, Ryann O’Toole of the United States and Maria Hernandez of Spain – moved to 10 under par and shared fourth place.
Lewis, who finished in eighth place when she played here for the first time in 2010, got her morning round going with a a birdie at the first hole and an eagle at the third and held the lead until caught by Smith late in the day.
An indication of the hot scoring was defending champion Karrie Webb starting the day tied in the lead at six under. By the time she had dropped a shot on the eighth hole, she was languishing in 41st position. She rallied with a couple of late birdies in a round of 71 but found herself five shots off the pace in 25th place.
Further evidence of the hot scoring was that he cut was made at four under par 140, the lowest in the tournament’s 22-year history.
Tseng, who will take the world No. 1 spot from Jiyai Shin of Korea if she wins this week, was angry at what she saw as missed chances. “It was a long day for me,” she said. “I was pretty stressed out on the course because I could not make any putts. I made most of my birdies on the par fives.
“However, I hung in there. I feel I could have shot 10 under. I was proud of myself for finishing at six under.”
The low round of the day was a scorching 63 from American Mollie Fankhauser who made nine birdies in the morning without dropping a shot. After an opening 74 it left here at seven under and five shots from the lead.
The quality of her golf – a shot outside Webb’s course record of 62 – was not the only thing that caught the attention of the local media who had not seen a heavily tattooed golfer, male or female, in the professional ranks. She was happy to talk about it, saying that they started about five years ago when her aunt and uncle bought her one on her neck as a birthday present.
“It was encouraged by all my family members so I just went with it,” she said. “I’m the only tattooed person in my family. I think they are beautiful if they are done by the right person. They can be horrendous and ugly but I have taken great care and researched the right artist.” The tattoos are evident on her arms and she says she has more on her chest and elsewhere.
Webb’s quest to win the title for the eighth time received a severe set-back but few who have seen her previous seven victories here would write her off completely. Five shots is not a lot to make up in two days, especially in light of her closing 61 last year to win by six shots.
Compatriot Katherine Hull, who won in 2009 and was runner-up last year, is also nicely placed if the leaders falter. Rounds of 69 and 66 leave her three shots from the lead in a tie for 10th place with fellow Aussies Karen Lunn and Nikki Campbell, American Hanna Jun, Becky Brewerton of Wales and Italian Diana Luna.
The cut reduced the field to 140 players including amateurs Cecelia Cho of New Zealand and Minjee Lee, 14, the current Western Australian Amateur champion. They are four shots from the lead in a tie for 16th place.