Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn continued her relentless form at the LET’s Lalla Aicha Tour School Final Stage with a flawless 65 on the Al Maaden course in Marrakech on Sunday to move into a three shot lead going into the final day.
As tensions rise ahead of the exciting finale in one of golf’s most gruelling contests, big moves into the all-important top 30 plus ties were at a premium, leaving it all to play for in the final round for the 66 Ladies European Tour hopefuls who made the fourth round cut at one under par, to the leading 60 players plus ties.
After rounds of 68, 70, 64 and 65, Jutanugarn sits on 21 under par and is superbly placed to earn her tour card.
Her impressive run of four birdies on the front nine and three on the back put her three clear of England’s Emily Taylor, who shot a five under 67 on the nearby Amelkis course to end on 18 under.
Bonita Bredenhann of Namibia continued her solid play with a 67 on the Al Maaden course to lie in third on 16 under, with Sweden’s Camilla Lennarth, who shot 66 on the Amelkis, two shots further back in fourth.
“The course is not easy but I think I got lucky because I’ve hit my irons perfect this week,” said Jutanugarn, 17, who plans to turn professional early next year and play the full season in Europe. “Every day my irons, I hit them so close, but today I missed some short putts one or two times. I had a three putt on a par five, 13. Generally I think everything is very good and I’ll just keep going like today.”
Taylor, who had five birdies in a 67, was also ideally placed to secure her tour card. The 18-year-old Lancastrian said: “I made a good start and birdied the first two holes, but seemed to stall after that. I had a good finish with two birdies on the last two holes. I am happy with five birdies and no bogeys. My driving and general game was good and it was a solid day. It’s nice to be able to relax and not to be worried about the cut. It’s nice to be able to just play and enjoy. Lora Fairclough, my current coach, is a great mentor. She is emailing and ringing me every day, so it’s nice to have her encouragement.”
Bredenhann, who is set to become the first professional golfer from Namibia, had five birdies in her bogey-free 67. “I missed a few holes that could have been birdies but I was just trying to be calm, focused and play shot by shot,” said Bredenhann, 20. “I was chasing Ariya but she was playing really, really well, putting it next to the pins and sank her putts. I had a few lip-outs. I’m going to try and go for it tomorrow and give her a go, but I’ll take whatever I play. I’ll just go out there and enjoy it.”
Lennarth was pleased with another solid round on the Amelkis course. “I hit a lot of fairways and greens and made some putts. I had seven birdies in total,” she said. “My driving was not the best but they were on the fairway anyway. The best part today was my iron shots, so I’m happy to be where I am.”
Finland’s Noora Tamminen shot the joint lowest score of the day, with a 65 on the Amelkis course. “The first nine was I was one under and then, I made three birdies in a row on 10,11,12 and then two more birdies in a row on 14 to 15, and finished with a birdie on last hole. A bogey-free round!” she said.
Among the notables, Cheyenne Woods of the United States made the fourth round cut but was outside the top 30 on two under par in a share of 46th having bogeyed the last three holes in a 73. She said: “I played well until the last three holes. I kind of finished a little rough so hopefully I’ll be able to pick it back up tomorrow.”
The remaining 66 players will take on the Al Maaden course in Monday’s fifth and final round to determine who will finish inside the top 30 places plus ties that earn category 8a status for the 2013 Ladies European Tour.