Lina Boqvist claimed a two-shot lead over fellow Swede Camilla Lennarth and past champion Nuria Iturrios after carding a stunning seven-under-par 66 in the first round of the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.
The 27-year-old from Gislaved fired six birdies on the front nine and led at eight-under-par after two more birdies at the 12th and 14th holes on the newly renovated Blue Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. She made consecutive bogeys on the par-5 15th and par-4 16th holes, but finished with a stylish birdie on the par-4 18th hole to complete her best score in five seasons on the Ladies European Tour.
“It was a great round and I think I played the best golf of my career on the LET. There were three missed greens, one up-and-down and two bogeys, but nine birdies, so it was fantastic,” she said, adding that she loved the course upgrades made over the last year.
All of the greens and tees have been relayed under the advice of designer Cabell B. Robinson, with several changes to the layout and bunkering.
“It’s better from the tee. The greens are better but they are more hilly, with more slopes, so I think the greens are a little bit tougher than last year, but in total, they are better.”
Earlier in the day, Lennarth, the 2014 Slovak Ladies Open champion, registered five birdies and she said: “I think the changes are great. Overall the course has improved a lot. It’s more generous off the tee, which I can appreciate. The greens are bigger and even though they’re slopier, there’s more room.”
The 2016 champion Nuria Iturrios from Spain carded six birdies and one bogey to sit alongside her.
She said: “I’m so happy to be here again and with the changes to the course, I really like it. I made a lot of putts again but still have a lot of work to do.
“Every year, with the upgrades, it’s like we are playing a different course, so I don’t have the same pressure. I really like the changes this year so I’ll keep on going.
“Maybe you have longer shots from the fairway, but with bigger greens it’s easier to hit more in regulation. The greens are perfect, as they had the course closed until now, so the ball rolls well.”
The pair are a stroke clear of Indian rookie Diksha Dagar, the winner of the Investec Women’s South African Open last month, while Norwegian Mariell Bruun and Chloe Leurquin from Belgium are tied for fifth on three-under-par.
Dagar, 18, from New Delhi, who suffered a wrist injury on the eve of the event, said: “I was able to read the lines correctly and make all the putts. In Morocco, it’s easy for me to read the greens and I love it here.”
Boqvist has past form at the Lalla Meryem Cup, with two top 10 finishes from the last three events at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. On the unique atmosphere of having the men’s European Tour playing the Hassan II Golf Trophy on the adjacent Red Course at the same venue simultaneously, she said: “I think it’s very good having both tours together. We share the practise facilities and the players’ lounge and I think it’s very good that both tours are here. I think we need to do something like that more often, coming together. Not playing on the same course, maybe, but at the same club.”