Lexi Thompson of the United States fired a flawless second round of six under par 66 on Thursday to take a two stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
The exciting 16-year-old from Coral Springs, Florida, fired six birdies on the Majlis Golf Course at Emirates Golf Club to finish at 136, eight under par ahead of Italian Margherita Rigon and Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson.
The 5’11” teen, who is still home schooled, carries the ball 250 yards with her driver and her average drive this week has been 275 yards.
After an opening round of 70, she improved by four strokes on Thursday and credited an adjustment to her putting set-up.
“I just made a few more putts today. I hit it a little bit closer,” she said. “I practiced after yesterday’s round and it worked today. And I hit a few shots from tap-in range, so that helped out a lot, too.”
|Italian Margherita Rigon|
Playing the course for the second year, having tied for 22nd at the 2010 event, she acknowledged that the course is ideally suited to her game.
“I get to hit a lot of drivers. You just have to place it out in the fairway here and go for your second shot,” her father revealing that she learned her immense distance whilst trying to keep up with her older brothers, both of whom are successful golfers.
Her approach play was equally impressive as she carded birdies at the 12th, 14th and 18th holes before picking up further shots at the second and third holes before tapping in for birdie at the par-four sixth.
After being hyped as the next big thing in golf, Thompson won the Navistar Classic in September, becoming the youngest winner in LPGA history and lowering that record by two years.
Should she win the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters on Saturday, she would be the second youngest winner in Ladies European Tour history, behind South Korean Amy Yang, who won the 2006 ANZ Ladies Masters as a 16-year-old amateur.
Thompson said: “This is such a great tournament and I mean it would be an honour to win this, so I’m just going to take it easy and play one shot at a time.”
Gustafson fired a bogey-free five under par 67 containing five birdies at the third, sixth, ninth, 12th and 16th holes and credited her solid ball striking.
After playing in the Pro Am on Tuesday, she took a lesson from the Swedish Golf Federation coaches Patrik Johnsson and Katarina Vagndahl earlier in the week and said: “I was striking the ball really well.
“My ball striking has been pretty similar, at least today’s, but I didn’t hole any yesterday, and I holed a couple today, but I left putts out there. It is pretty good, because I was actually hitting the ball awful on Tuesday during the Pro Am.”
Rigon said that solid putting was the key to her round of 68. “I played very, very good. I struggled a bit with my driver today, didn’t hit many fairways, but thanks to my putts, it was quite easy to manage a good score.”
Rigon is in Dubai fighting to keep her Ladies European Tour card and needs to finish in the top 80 positions on the Exemption Ranking to earn category 5 membership of the LET and avoid a return to Final Qualifying School in January. She is currently ranked 83rd on that list and needs a top 50 finish on Saturday to secure her place next season.
Paraguayan Julieta Granada (71) and Becky Morgan of Wales (69) have no such worries and ended joint fourth on five under par, followed a stroke further back by Swedes Lotta Wahlin (74), Pernilla Lindberg (68) and Louise Larsson (69) in a share of sixth place with Michelle Wie (67).
Wie missed a couple of birdie opportunities and said: “A little frustrated after the last two holes, but I kept steady out there today. I made a couple more putts, and I have two more days to try and shoot some more low scores.”
She and Thompson, two of the brightest young talents in American women’s golf, have never played together setting up a tantalising prospect for Saturday’s final round, which could see the two long-hitters pitted against one another.
Meanwhile, 67 players will contest Friday’s third round after making the 36-hole cut at three over par or better. The third round will commence at 7.40am local time with the leading trio of Thompson, Gustafson and Rigon teeing off at 11.30am.
Not to be completely outshone on her 17th birthday, the LET’s youngest member, Klara Spilkova from the Czech Republic, made the cut on three over par and will be hoping for a strong finish to her rookie season on the Tour, where she is 78th on the 2011 Henderson Money List that will be finalised on Saturday.