A change of putter worked wonders for long-hitting Anne Van Dam who blistered the front nine to move atop the leaderboard going into the penultimate round of the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday.
Starting the second round two shots off the pace, the 22-year-old Dutch star fired a flawless seven-under 65 to reach 10-under for the tournament, a good two shots ahead of Scotland’s Kelsey MacDonald.
England’s Georgia Hall, placed 14th overnight, carded a sparkling 67 to join Australia’s Celina Yuan and Thidapa Suwannapura for a share of third on seven-under as overnight leader Supamas Sangchan slipped to tied sixth after returning a 71.
Starting from the 10th tee, Van Dam set the tone of the day with a birdie on the 11th before making the turn at two-under. Five in seven holes sparked her round to life, putting her firmly in the frame for her second title on the Ladies European Tour.
The previous day, a massive 350-yard drive on the 18th set her up for an 8-iron approach shot into the green and a comfortable two-putt birdie, however it was her putting which helped her move to the top of the leader board on day two.
“I haven’t been putting great at all for the last half year, but I changed putters two days ago,” said last year’s Xiamen Ladies Open champion, 22, from Arhem in the Netherlands.
“I went for something completely different. Normally I have face-balance and now I have toe-hang. It’s a blade, and normally I have a mallet.”
Van Dam, ranked second in driving distance on tour, with an average drive of 278.60 yards, clearly relished the opportunity to compete in a long-hitting three-ball featuring Brittany Lincicome and Angel Yin, officially first in driving distance at 283 yards.
“We had a lot of fun out there today and yesterday as well,” she said, adding: “We were all under par for two days in a row and we all hit it long, so that helps, helps with the game and we all play aggressively.”
The lively American Solheim Cup player, Yin, 19, insisted on interviewing Van Dam after they finished playing together and commented: “Last year when I played with her, I was like, all that six feet height wasted, and this year was like, oh, I’m impressed.”
Scotland’s MacDonald, who is in second place, credited her caddie, Katy McNicoll, a former LET player and PGA assistant professional at Gullane, for keeping her calm and focused.
“I just lost confidence kind of during the year, and again, just having someone on the bag that’s just reiterating, you know, my thoughts and going over the same things. It’s just putting the confidence back into me. She’s a great friend, too, so that obviously helps,” said MacDonald.
While Van Dam played a power game, the LET’s 2017 order of merit winner Hall plotted her way to a 67, her six birdies including a 30-feet effort on the ninth, which she played as her final hole.
“I did putt well today and I wanted to take advantage of the morning round, because the greens were in better condition and less wind, so I’m glad I did it,” said Hall, still jet-lagged from her trip from the United States.
“I woke up at midnight and didn’t get back to sleep. I wasn’t in the best of moods today. I’m quite tired, but I played well,” said Hall, who took half a club more on most shots to compensate.
Yuan, who had made one cut from six starts on the LET coming into this week, followed her opening 68 with a 69, although it wasn’t as eventful as the first round, when her ball hit an airborne parrot on the third hole and she went on to make a birdie there.
She explained: “I was going to hit my shot and everything was clear and then once I began and I hit my shot, a parrot flew by and I hit it in the air and it passed away. I got my mind off it and focused on my game after that.
“I never really expected to play like this. Really, I wasn’t striking it very well today, but the score somehow turned out pretty good.”