England’s Meghan MacLaren fired a second successive 65 to take a two shot lead into the final round of the Jordan Mixed Open presented by Ayla – as men and women compete against each other for the same prize for the first time.
The 23-year-old Ladies European Tour player is two ahead of Dutchman Daan Huizing on a 36-hole total of 14-under-par at Ayla Golf Club in the coastal Red Sea resort town of Aqaba.
The event includes pros from the Ladies European Tour, over 50s Staysure Tour and European Challenge Tour.
MacLaren was one behind overnight and started her second round four back after Huizing set the clubhouse target at 12-under.
She said: “I’m pretty delighted. I don’t have 65s too often so to have two in a row is pretty special.
“I felt more in control and like I hit more shots close to the pin today. I also probably had a couple more par saves, that I wasn’t having yesterday. It was tricky with the wind out there and it was definitely windier, which made pace control trickier as well. I had a couple of return putts longer than I would have liked but it was nice to do it in a couple of different ways.”
MacLaren made a fast start with a birdie on her first hole, the 10th and carded a pair of birdies on the 13th and 14th holes. She picked up a fourth birdie on the long 17th to make the turn at 11-under, one stroke behind Huizing. She then birdied the third hole, her 12th, to tie for the lead and moved two clear with birdies on the fifth and seventh holes.
Although thrilled to back up her opening 65 with another seven-under-par round, she was just as pleased to see that an almost even split of players from the three tours made the cut, with one representative from each tour in the final group, saying: “It’s pretty cool that it’s working out like this.”
There were 20 women, 21 over 50s and 25 Challenge Tour players among the 66 players advancing to Saturday’s final round.
“They couldn’t have written it any better than that. I think that’s a testament to the research that’s gone into it. People know about golf and this isn’t just some gimmick to see if it works. A lot of thought has gone into it and I’m happy that it’s playing out like this.”
MacLaren successfully defended her Women’s NSW Open title in Australia last month and is targeting a third LET win, which would boost her prospects of a debut appearance in The Solheim Cup in September.
“I’m just trying to win a golf tournament. There’s a lot of other stuff going on and I’m proud of the position that all three tours have put themselves in and golf as a whole, for this tournament. Tomorrow it’s going to be completely about my own game and trying to have the best score possible.”
Huizing, who shot a second round 68, also has his eyes on the prize. The two-time Challenge Tour winner said: “The goal is to go out and win the thing; that is what we play for and what we practise for.
“I managed my way round quite well and the putts were good. I made some six or seven foot putts for par which keeps the momentum going.
“It was the total opposite breeze today from yesterday, so every hole is playing differently. The par fives, which were down wind and playing easy are now into the wind. I’ll make some notes from that, I’ve seen the course from both directions, so whatever happens tomorrow, I’ll be prepared.”
Welshman Oliver Farr and English duo Paul Streeter and Jack Senior are four shots further back in a share of third place, with Italian Francesco Laporta in sixth.
South African Stacy Lee Bregman is eight shots from the lead in a share of seventh position with a group including Scott Henry, who finished 10 strokes better than his wife, Kylie. The LET order of merit leader Marianne Skarpnord is tied for 22nd position on three-under-par and her fiancé Richard Green also made the cut in a tie for 39th place.