Gwladys Nocera of France and local rookie professional Yan Liu fired matching second rounds of 70 in hot and humid conditions to share the lead heading into the final round of the Sanya Ladies Open at Yalong Bay Golf Club in Hainan, China.
Nocera, a 14-time Ladies European Tour tournament winner from France and local rookie professional Liu, 18, sit at six-under-par.
They are one stroke ahead of Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall, German rookie Leticia Ras-Anderica and Thai pair Prima Thammaraks and Saraporn Chamchoi.
Amelia Lewis of the United States (below) had been at seven-under-par after 16 holes but double bogeyed the 17th after finding the water off the tee and then bogeyed the last to drop into a five-way share of seventh on four-under-par.
Nocera started her second round with a bogey on the 10th and made her first birdie on the reachable par-5 16th, before dropping a stroke at the next for a back nine of one-over 37. However she came in with three birdies on the front nine at the first, eighth and ninth to get into contention for her first title since the 2015 Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.
She said: “I struggled with the depth of my shots, so I was a little further from the pin that yesterday but I finished with two good shots on eight and nine for two birdies to finish the round. It was a good fight. Of course I’m pleased with where I stand and I know what I want: I want to win. I’m not thinking about the score, just about hitting the ball like I am now. Things are coming together.”
While Nocera is a former LET Order of Merit winner and four-time Solheim Cup player who represented France at the recent Olympic Games in Rio, Liu is at the other end of the experience spectrum and is playing in just her fourth tournament as a professional, having recorded a best finish of tied 25th in the Xiamen International Ladies Open a fortnight ago.
The China LPGA Tour member went out in two-under and came back in level par and said: “Today was good, but I had some lucky birdies. My driver was working well and I think I’ll be feeling positive tomorrow.”
First-round co-leaders Hedwall (below) and Ras-Anderica are still both in the mix after level par rounds and Hedwall was pleased to be in contention for a sixth title and her first in four years.
After signing for a second round containing three birdies and three bogeys, she said: “I didn’t hit my tee shots as well – and it’s a struggle when you’re in the rough. I had a couple of lip-outs and it could have been a couple under but I’m happy with level par. I fought back and I’m in a good position for tomorrow. I try to win every tournament that I play but I haven’t been in the hunt, so it’s nice to be up there.”
Ras-Anderica, whose best finish on tour was a tie for 25th in the recent Xiamen International Ladies Open, started with a bogey on the first hole and made one birdie – on the par-5 13th. She said: “I was striking the ball well and hitting them close but I just didn’t make any putts. I had a slow start and it was less windy this morning which didn’t help me, because I usually play better with the wind. My goal has been top 10, but now I’m trying to get as low as I can and we’ll see what happens.”
Meanwhile, in a share of 36th position on two-over-par, the defending champion Xi Yu Lin of China is eight shots from the pace and cannot be ruled out, but will likely need a low round to capture her third straight Sanya Ladies Open title tomorrow.