Anne Van Dam stretched her lead to five strokes on a day of low scoring at the Estrella Damm Mediterranean Ladies Open on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Dutchwoman added a six-under-par 65 to a pair of opening 66s to move to 20-under-par at Club de Golf Terramar in Sitges.
Caroline Hedwall, who shot a final round of 62 to win the Lacoste Ladies Open de France a fortnight ago, climbed into second with another nine-under-par round, which could easily have been a 59, had she not missed several birdie chances.
A 64 from the South African Women’s Open champion Ashleigh Buhai propelled her into solo third position on 14-under. There was another 64 from the Korean amateur Selin Hyun who shares fourth place with Caroline Masson, Thidapa Suwannapura and Celine Herbin.
Spain’s own Carlota Ciganda (above) shot and eight-under-par 63 to move to 11-under, with Klara Spilkova and Aditi Ashok a stroke further back.
Van Dam, the longest hitter in women’s golf, who has averaged 298 yards off the tee so far this week, immediately demonstrated her power with a tap-in eagle on the 503-yard par-5 first hole on Saturday.
She explained: “I hit my drive a little bit left and I had 204 metres to the pin downwind. I hit my 4-iron thin, but it bounced up the green and was almost an albatross, so it was a nice tap-in to start the day.”
The 2016 Xiamen International Open champion then birdied the long sixth hole and the par-4 eighth to make the turn in four-under.
She made further gains on the par-3 10th and par-5 13th before finishing with five solid pars under pressure down the stretch.
“Those two par saves on 16 and 17 felt like two birdies coming in,” she said. “I was in a terrible position on 16 off the tee and did as best I could. That putt gives me a lot of confidence. It was a hard putt, downhill, right to left, about 12 feet and I rolled in straight in the middle. On 17, we were in between clubs and you cannot go long. It was a solid bunker shot and a good putt.”
Van Dam is full of confidence after working on her short game with her coach last week at the Evian Championship, where she tied for 37th and she added: “The way I’m playing, I’ve only dropped one shot so far this week and I feel like I’m playing well. You can never know what the other people are going to do but the scores are out there. A nine-under could happen tomorrow. All I need to do is bring my A game and we’ll see what happens.”
The Ladies European Tour’s all-time record score for 18 holes is 61, 11-under-par, but if there is anyone who could challenge that, then it’s Hedwall.
The Solheim Cup star had nine birdies on her card, but the chances included an 18-inch effort which she missed on the 12th hole and a par on the opening hole.
She said: “I’m playing really good golf at the minute and today I hit it close a lot of times. It’s not often that you can say you shot 62 and left a couple out there. A 59 was definitely possible today and it just felt awesome to be honest.
“I needed to birdie the last four to get to 59 and the last three are probably the toughest holes on the course. I was trying, but didn’t make it. I’m still really happy with minus nine. Anne is playing unbelievably well and that’s probably what’s necessary tomorrow to catch her. I feel really good about my game and if I can pull off two 62s in a row, that would be incredible.”
Buhai, who is also looking to become the first multiple winner on the LET this season, is in contention after a round containing eight birdies.
She said: “I’m playing really well and every day is just getting a little bit better. I found something on the range on Wednesday and I’m trying to improve every day. It was stress-free golf out there. I think I’m going to have to have something better than today to win as Anne is playing fantastically well. She’s have to come backwards for one of us to have a chance, I think.”
The final round gets under way at 9.20am local time on Sunday and the leading group of Van Dam, Hedwall and Buhai, start at 11.15am.
Watch all the action live on the LET website and YouTube channel from 1-4pm local time. For the first time, this is also now available to fans in the UK.