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 in a three-way tie for third on seven-under as overnight leader Supamas Sangchan slipped to tied sixth after returning a 71.
Teeing off from the 10th, 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.
What a day for @Annevandan!— Ladies European Tour (@LETgolf) December 7, 2017
Superb 2nd round bogey-free 65 (-7) moves her to the top of the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic leaderboard on -10 pic.twitter.com/7jQl8qMizB
On Monday, 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 leaderboard on day two.
“I haven’t been putting great at all for the last half year, but I changed putters two days ago,” said the 22-year-old Van Dam, last year’s Xiamen Ladies Open champion, 22.
“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. “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. “Last year when I played with her, I was like, all that six feet height wasted!,” Yin said. “This year was like, oh, I’m impressed.”
Scotland’s MacDonald credited her caddie, Katy McNicoll, a former Ladies European Tour 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.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
The half-way cut was made at one-over 145. The 2019 Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew, top English amateur Sophie Lamb and Morocco’s Maha Haddioui were among the notables who missed on the weekend.
Featuring a blend of youth and experience, the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic promises to deliver another shining example of the winds of change across the Ladies European Tour when the tournament gets underway on Wednesday.
Bursting at the seams with talent, young prodigies such as Georgia Hall, Angel Yin, Aditi Ashok, Charley Hull, Camille Chevalier, Celine Boutier and Klara Spilkova will go out with a slew of seasoned campaigners, providing first class golf entertainment for fans at the Emirates Golf Club.
In a buoyant mood after racking up six top-10s, including a second at the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open, England’s Hall has already assured herself the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit title.
France’s Chevalier, the winner of the Hero Women’s Indian Open, still has some work to do before sealing the Rookie of the Year honours.
In one of the major highlights of the tournament, In-Kyung Kim will be looking to wrap up her season with another successful shot at the title and become only the third multiple winner of the season-ending Ladies European Tour event in Dubai.
Come & watch world class women’s golf from December 6 – 9. A great family day out. Entry is FOC pic.twitter.com/eeaEALxHxR
— Ladies European Tour (@LETgolf) December 3, 2017
Kim, the winner of the Ricoh Women’s British Open, who first won the event in 2009, will have her work cut out as the 108-player field is packed with potential winners, who will be itching to step up to the plate and challenge the South Korean ace.
The grand dame of the women’s game, Laura Davies, American powerhouse Brittany Lincicome, Hull, Lee-Anne Pace and Catriona Matthew, the first woman to be included in Scottish golf’s Hall of Fame, will be among the strong contenders for the redesigned winner’s trophy that emulates the look and feel of the iconic Dallah, the symbol of supremacy at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
How the script unfolds, only time will tell, but one thing is sure, the tournament will throw up some enduring memories to add to its catalogue of classic moments.
Providing a distinct ‘local’ flavour to the event will be Morocco’s Maha Haddioui, the first Arab golfer to ply her trade on the Ladies European Tour.
And she believes a good showing from her could well mark a watershed moment for women’s golf in the Arab world.
“It’s a little girl’s dream, even if you are 28, you still have a dream to win in the region — Dubai or Morocco. It’s something really strong in my heart,” she said.
“If that happens it will sort of inspire other women in the Arab world to take up golf,” added Haddioui.
Rookie of the Year rankings ahead of the season ending Omega Dubai Ladies Classic
— Ladies European Tour (@LETgolf) December 5, 2017
Her game heading in the right direction, Suzann Pettersen returns to the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic early next month, hoping to crack the winner’s circle and end the year on a high note.
Some good vibes on her side, a two-time major winner Pettersen racked up a creditable third at ANA Inspiration among her four top-10s on the LPGA Tour and a second at Ladies European Tour’s Lalla Meryem Cup, signaling her return to form.
Currently ranked 30th in the world, the 36-year- old Oslo native will be looking to summon her top game and end a winless spell since the 2015 Manulife LPGA Classic when she joins the starting line-up at the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic to be held at Emirates Golf Club from December 6 to 9, seeking a revenge of sorts after finishing in a tie for 35th in her maiden appearance last year.
“I show up to win tournaments, get better and break my own records. I hate losing. I still feel the desire every morning when I wake up to go out and try and become better than I was yesterday,” said Norwegian ace, who boasts 22 professional wins, including seven on the Ladies European Tour.
“Fortunately, we’re in a sport where you have age on your side. There’s always bits and pieces you feel like you can do better, improve. So, losing is probably my biggest motivation,” said Pettersen, who reached a career-high No.2 in the world rankings after her victory in the Evian Championship in 2013 and held that position several times.
“It was my first time in Dubai last year, but the experience was just amazing. They have a great field, a great course and the players feel welcomed. The whole place has a really buzzing and pulsating atmosphere. I look forward to visiting the vibrant city and hope I will be in mix coming down the final stretch.
“However, for that to happen, it would take something special to beat the challenge, but I will try my best and see what happens,” said Pettersen, who has fully recovered from a slipped disc that forced her to withdraw from this year’s Solheim Cup.
“If you can’t even be 90 per cent there’s no point. So you have to kind of be honest with yourself, look yourself in the mirror and say are you fit enough to go or not,” said the Norwegian who has featured in the biennial golf tournament for professional women golfers eight times.
Commented Peter Dawson, chairman of Golf in Dubai, the promoters and organizers of the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic: “We are delighted to welcome Suzann back to Dubai. She has been at the top of the women’s golf for a long time now and I know her desire to win tournaments is undiminished. I wish her the very best.”