Lexi Thompson of the United States says that she will just ‘have fun and relax’ as she goes in pursuit of her second professional title at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters on Saturday.
The 16-year-old from Coral Springs in Florida birdied the 18th hole at Emirates Golf Club on Friday to move a stroke ahead of the field going into the final round.
A round of 70, containing four birdies and two bogeys, saw her end on 10 under, which was just enough to edge ahead of Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson.
Whereas Gustafson played her second shot short of the lake at the last hole, Thompson was able to strike a three wood just over the back of the green from 212 yards, setting up an eagle opportunity.
The teen judged the pace of her first putt perfectly and then holed from around four feet to move one stroke clear of the field.
“I told her just to blast it towards those hospitality tents at the back of the green and it went so straight,” said her father, Scott, who is her caddie.
Thompson said: “Once I saw the drive, I was just like, all right, I probably can go for it from there, and I was 212 to the pin, so I figured my 3‑wood’s for sure going to get there. If not, just go long, which I did.”
Thompson had dropped a shot at the first hole, narrowing her two stroke overnight lead to one, but recovered with a birdie at the third for a level par front nine of 35. She then picked up shots at the 10th and 14th and three-putted the par-three 15th, before finishing in style.
When asked how she would approach the final round, she said: “I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous on the first tee, but who isn’t going to be?”
Thompson, who loves cats, music, reality television and ladybugs, revealed that she will be wearing her lucky final-round colour of blue on Saturday, having won in the same outfit at the Navistar Classic in September, when she was the youngest ever winner on the LPGA, lowering the all-time record by two years. Should she win in Dubai, she would be the second youngest winner on the Ladies European Tour after South Korean Amy Yang, who won the ANZ Ladies Masters in Australia as a 16-year-old amateur, but she would be the youngest professional winner and allowed to collect the €75,000 first prize.
Her closest rival, Gustafson, said of Thompson: “She is a fantastic ball-striker and if she just keeps working on the little things and doesn’t start changing something major, then I think she’s going to be really good.”
On her own round of 69, which contained five birdies and two bogeys, Gustafson said: “Before I was going out I was thinking a ten would be a good number to get to and that was what I was working towards.”
South African Lee-Anne Pace and Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg were just two strokes off the lead in joint third on eight under par.
Pace is more relaxed than 12 months ago, as she is not challenging for the Henderson Money List and Player of the Year titles which she won last year.
On her bogey-free 67, she said: “Played really well today, obviously. No bogeys, which was a goal at the beginning of the day. And also very close to my goal that I set in the beginning of the week. I thought 3‑under every day would be a pretty good score at the end of the week, so I’m one off that.”
Lindberg started slowly with a one-over front nine total of 36, but fired five birdies on the back nine for a round of 68.
She explained: “Coming in with I think its four straight top 10s on the LET going into this week. So of course, I know I got the game in me, so it’s fun to be up there.”
South African Stacy Lee Bregman, Wales’ Becky Morgan and Paraguayan Julieta Granada remained in the hunt tied for fifth on seven under par while American Michelle Wie ended the day five shots off the lead in eighth on five under.
Wie dropped a shot early on at the second but recovered with three birdies against a bogey on the back nine. She said: “Today was pretty frustrating. You know, but at least I made birdie on the last hole, made me feel good about myself, but tomorrow I just gotta go out there and really shoot low.”
There were eight players a shot further back, including Italian Margherita Rigon, Maria Verchenova and Liebelei Lawrence, all of whom are playing to keep their Ladies European Tour cards for the 2012 season.
Meanwhile, last week’s Hero Women’s Indian Open champion Caroline Hedwall’s 68 moved her into a share of ninth at four under par.