JEDDAH: A course record-equaling 63 put New Zealander Lydia Ko in firm control heading into the final day of the $1 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International.
The former world No. 1 carded five birdies on both the front and back nine at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club to lead by four with one round to play.
Sitting at 16 under, the 24-year-old will look to hold off a final day push from Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul, whose scintillating 65 propelled her into second place.
England’s Alice Hewson sits two further back on 10 under, with Spaniards Carlota Ciganda and Nuria Iturrioz both on 9 under.
“I played really solid today,” said Ko, who tied Australian Steph Kyriacou’s record round at Royal Greens. “I missed a short putt for par on three and then went on a stretch of birdies. I gave myself a lot of good looks for birdie opportunities and I was rolling it well, so it was a good combination of everything, where I wasn’t making many mistakes. It was that kind of a round where I just kept putting myself in position, trying to play the best golf I can.”
“I’ve got to keep playing aggressively,” she said. “This is a course where you’ve seen players can play well so I’m just trying to make my share out there and see what happens.”
Atthaya Thitikul, who looks set to be crowned the season-long LET’s Race to the Costa del Sol champion after her low round on Saturday, said: “I feel pretty good about my round today. My putter was on fire. I’ll keep trying to roll in my putts tomorrow and keep making as many birdies as I can, staying focused.”
Talking about her final day playing partner Lydia Ko, Thitikul said: “She is really solid. Her putter and short game is one of the best, she’s pretty good. I’ll learn from her tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.”
After an opening day 75, a resurgent Georgia Hall went 3 under par yesterday, before going a further three better today, placing her in a busy chasing pack, albeit 10 off the top.
“Today I could’ve been 9 under if I’m honest,” she said. “I missed quite a few putts under 10 foot. But my game was a lot better today and I’m very happy with how I played.
“I had three weeks off so maybe just getting back into tournament mode took me a little bit more time than I thought,” Hall added. “No matter how much you practice, competitions always feel different, so it’s just been getting my swing back into a good place.”
American Alison Lee, whose compatriot and playing partner Lyndsey Weaver found the tournament’s second hole-in-one on the way to a 71, sits one better at 7 under, bouncing back from a 5-over-par 77 on the first day with rounds of 65 and 67.
“I feel like I played pretty solid today. My strength today was my putting. Long birdie putts, shaky par putts coming back – it was my saviour today,” said Lee.
“I was very disappointed after the first round. I feel like I’ve been playing really well and that was just one of those days a golfer has in their back pocket once in a while, it just kind of happens. Thankfully I recovered yesterday and hopefully I can put a good number up tomorrow.”
The Aramco Saudi Ladies International, presented by Public Investment Fund, will be followed by the Aramco Team Series – Jeddah, the last of four new $1-million team tournaments added to the Ladies European Tour this season, on Nov. 10-12th.