India’s Aditi Ashok turned in a superb 68 on a scorching day at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club to hit the front going into the final round of the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi.
The 19-year-old from Bangalore, who is chasing a third Ladies European Tour title, carded seven birdies but dropped three shots to move to 15-under-par for the tournament, two ahead of Cheyenne Woods from the United States of America, who also shot 68.
England’s Ellie Givens fired a flawless eight-under 64, just two shy of the women’s course record set by Luna Sobron, to join overnight leader Lee-Anne Pace from South Africa in a share of third on 12-under-par as England’s Georgia Hall and Swede Camilla Lennarth occupied tied fifth, four strokes from the lead.
On a day when temperatures once again hit 33C, the 2016 Rookie of the Year quickly found her way to the top of the leader board.
“I was hitting it well on the range and I had a feeling that I could have a few birdie chances,” said Aditi, who won back-to-back titles at last year’s Indian and Qatar Opens.
“It started out well and I was five-under on the front nine but there were a couple of mistakes on the back which could have been avoided. Four-under is still good. It’s good that I have a two-stroke lead but there are several players within two or three shots and a low round is very possible on this course so I’ll need to play well tomorrow.”
Pace, a nine-time winner on the LET, was not quite as pleased with her efforts and after signing for a 72 she said: “I’m very frustrated. I didn’t think I played that badly but I left myself in some bad positions so decision-making wasn’t the best, especially hitting over the green on 18 and dropping one there. It wasn’t ideal but a quick start tomorrow and I could get there. I had a lot of downhill putts and short-sided myself. They were not easy putts to make.”
Givens, however, whose best finish to date on the LET is a tie for sixth in the 2013 Turkish Ladies Open, was delighted to move into contention for her first title. After recording five birdies on the front nine, at the first, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth holes, followed by an eagle at the 11th and a closing birdie at the difficult par-4 18th, she said: “I really enjoyed today. I hit the ball really close and made a lot of putts. I even missed a few and I didn’t birdie the par fives, but I played well, especially on the front nine. On the back nine, I hit a couple of looser shots but had some good chips and I made a great putt on 18. It’s my lowest ever round so I’m very excited about that and I had some family here today, so it was nice to have them see me play well. I’m going to play aggressively tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.”
The final round gets under way at 7.50am local time on Saturday and the leaders will tee off at 11.34am
photos Janos Schmidt