South African Nicole Garcia and Nanna Koerstz Madsen of Denmark share the lead after the second round of the Lacoste Ladies Open de France at Golf du Médoc.
Garcia posted a two-under-par 69 in ideal conditions to set the target at eight-under and was later joined by Madsen, who had a six-under 65, the joint lowest score of the day.
A maiden Ladies European Tour victory for Garcia would see her into The Evian Championship next week, while Madsen is already qualified and looking for her second win on the LET after the 2016 Tipsport Masters in Pilsen.
The pair lead by one ahead of the overnight leader Julia Engstrom, with the powerful hitter Anne Van Dam from the Netherlands a stroke further back. Scotland’s Carly Booth is tied for fifth with Australian Sarah Kemp, Sweden’s Lynn Carlsson and Marion Ricordeau from France.
Garcia, 27, from Johannesburg, said: “I didn’t hit the ball as well as yesterday, but yesterday I hit it unbelievably well, so I didn’t expect to come out and do the same. I was happy with two-under in the end.
“It was a good front nine and a bit of a struggle over the first few holes again, but I managed to get a birdie on the seventh and a chip-in for eagle on the ninth, so that was quite nice.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep it going but I’m happy with the end result. It was nice to get the birdie on 17 because I felt like I needed another one coming in to get a bit of an extra advantage going into tomorrow. I was really happy with the way I finished.”
Koerstz Madsen carded six birdies and said afterwards: “I just didn’t make that many mistakes and a birdie came here and there and I ended up being six-under. It was pretty steady.
“I came in on Wednesday evening and Nicole Broch Larsen, who I travel with, had a bit of trouble with her suitcases so we had to go shopping and we have seen a bit of Bordeaux.”
Rookie professional Engström, who spent the morning catching up on her psychology homework, had a level par round of 71, containing a pair of birdies on the eighth and ninth holes and two bogeys on the 11th and 16th.
The 17-year-old from Halmstad said: “I played very solid but didn’t get the putts to roll in. I still played solid and hopefully they’ll roll in tomorrow. I think for a good round you need everything perfect, like yesterday when I hit 18 greens. Today I hit 16. It was almost the same, but I didn’t roll in the putts and I think that’s the difference. You roll in a few long putts and you get in the flow and that’s important for scoring.
“This is my first year so I’m just learning about being up on the leader board, one shot from the lead. I’m looking forward to the weekend and seeing how far it takes me.”
Anne Van Dam from the Netherlands is on six-under-par after a 67 and felt that her driving and putting were strong, but her approach shots needed to be sharper.
“I’m hitting basically every fairway out there. I don’t have very long irons going into the greens so if I work on that and hole a few more putts, it should be fun,” she said.
Booth, who tied the low round of the day with Koerstz Madsen and Kemp, was upbeat after posting her lowest competitive score on tour since the 2015 Lacoste Ladies Open de France.
She said: “I played solid. I hit 14 out of 14 fairways, missed four greens and had 26 putts, so it was a solid round of golf.
“My golf has not been far away all year; it’s just a little bit of the five inches between the ears. Robbie (my caddie) has been great for me the last couple of days. I’m being confident with what I know I can do and that’s really all it was today with committing to each shot and believing in myself.”
The 2012 Scottish and Swiss Open champion added: “I would love to finish better than 10-under. My last win was 12-under, so I think if I can push past there, then I am not going to be far away.”
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Photo: Rémy Gros