England’s Meghan MacLaren fired her best score on the Ladies European Tour – a six-under-par 65 – to move to 10-under-par and take a two-stroke lead into the final round of the Women’s New South Wales Open in Australia.
The 23-year-old from Rushton in Northamptonshire carded eight birdies and two bogeys in fine conditions on day three at Coffs Harbour Golf Club.
She is two ahead of Norwegian rookie Marita Engzelius, with Australian Rebecca Artis, Thailand’s Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras and Silvia Bañon three strokes further back in tied third.
“I’m delighted. I played well yesterday and the day before in wind, but to convert it into a score that really sets the mark for tomorrow feels great,” said the 2017 LET Access Series Order of Merit winner, who had her dad, Staysure Tour CEO David MacLaren on caddie duties.
“He was helpful in that he didn’t say anything the whole way around! No, it was great to have him there, just to keep me calm and make sure I didn’t get ahead of myself. He deserves a lie down,” she smiled. “He kept me talking about stuff that wasn’t related to my round, which was good, because I could have been a bit edgy otherwise.”
The second-year professional has won twice on the LET Access Series, once as an amateur in 2016 and at the 2017 Azores Ladies Open in her rookie season. She feels that those experiences will stand her in good stead as she targets her first win on the Ladies European Tour.
“Winning on the LET Access Series makes me feel a lot more confident going into tomorrow. Everybody gets nervous at the top of the leader board and sometimes it’s better coming from behind. Knowing that I’ve got over the line before and have won in college as well, I know what it takes - and I know I’m good enough to do it,” she said.
MacLaren started the third round two strokes from the lead and bogeyed the first hole but fired five birdies over the next seven holes for an outward total of 31, to take a one-stroke lead into the back nine. She birdied the par-3 12th and flirted with the trees on the left side of the 13th fairway before making a solid putt for bogey, dropping into a share of the lead. She then moved two strokes ahead of Engzelius with a pair of birdies on 16 and 17.
“It had a bit of everything and some of the bogeys felt like the best parts of the round, so I’m happy. I hit some great iron shots and felt in control of the ball all day. This is the best I’ve felt with my game for quite a while and I’m putting nicely so I don’t want to get distracted by the noise outside and just want to focus on what I’m doing,” she said.
Her closest challenger, Engzelius, may be an LET rookie by name, but she has plenty of experience. She played on the LPGA in 2013 and following that played for four years on the Symetra Tour, where she won the 2014 Symetra Tour Championship, which she won in a play-off.
After signing for a three-under 68, she said: “I felt that I was able to put in a good score, but I was struggling a bit off the tee. I only hit four fairways, but I putted well and overall, I’m happy. I just kept it simple and if I got in trouble I didn’t try to do anything spectacular. I’m going to work on my driver and hopefully have a good round tomorrow.”
The other challengers will include Austrian Sarah Schober, whose 65 equalled the low round of the day, Australians Sarah Kemp and Jihye Park, Lydia Hall from Wales, Germany’s Olivia Cowan and Camilla Lennarth from Sweden, who all start the last day six strokes back.
Due to the threat of afternoon thunderstorms, there will be earlier tee times for the final round and the leading three-ball of MacLaren, Engzelius and Artis will start at 8.54am local time.