Thai teenager Ariya Jutanugarn shot a four under 67 on Friday to lead by two strokes after the second round of the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.
The Ladies European Tour rookie, 17, from Bangkok, had five birdies and one bogey for a six under halfway total of 136 at Golf du l’Océan in Agadir. The last time Jutanugarn visited Morocco, for the LET’s Lalla Aicha Tour School in December, she won the Final Stage by five shots.
Just three months later and after an amazing start to her first season as a professional, which has seen her finish second to Karrie Webb in Australia and runner-up to Inbee Park in Thailand, the World No.42’s return to Morocco is proving to be equally impressive.
She said: “The first time I played the practice round I thought the course was very hard and I thought the fairways were too narrow for me, but now I’ve played the first two days, I feel like it’s a lot better!
“I was here last year and I like Morocco. My dad says it’s very far from my house but I have to come! Morocco is very nice. I want to do my best and win the tournament.”
Fellow teenage rookie Charley Hull, who turned 17 nine days ago, shares second place with South African Lee-Anne Pace and United States duo Beth Allen and Mallory Fraiche on four under par.
Hull, from Kettering, England, was typically relaxed: “Usually on the second day I don’t have a great score but I kept my head down and forgot about that and posted a one under which is pretty good.
“I’m really happy. I played simple golf out there today. It was a bit boring on the front nine until the last few holes on the back nine and then I rolled a few putts in. I missed a few putts out there but everyone can say that. Today it was pretty quiet all day. I would say there was still a little bit more wind in the afternoon but it was still a challenge.”
Fraiche, 25, from New Orleans, is another rookie in contention. She said: “Getting off the airplane in the airport it felt really comfortable as I had a lot of good memories from Q School. My putting and a little more confidence and I think I can get it done. I plan on winning at least one tournament and just playing solid throughout the year.”
However, the more experienced duo of Lee-Anne Pace and Beth Allen were quietly confident for the weekend.
Pace, a five-time tournament winner in 2010, said: “I’m trying to hit as many fairways and as many greens as I can and working a lot more on my putting than I have been so I’m trying to make as many birdies as possible and see how the weekend goes.”
Allen, who is still targeting her first LET victory in her sixth year on tour, played in the morning and commented: “I think we got lucky with the draw. I probably played a little better but not much better than yesterday. I still had two three putts, really stupid mistakes, but it was similar, I just thought the conditions were better.”
Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord followed her opening 66 with a 76 to lose her overnight lead and drop to level par. Meanwhile Australia’s Karen Lunn, the 2012 champion, sits at three over alongside local heroine Maha Haddioui and both players will be looking to climb the leader board on Saturday.