England’s Georgia Hall fired a third round of 67 in hot and breezy conditions at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club on Friday to take a one stroke lead into the final round of the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi.
The 20-year-old from Bournemouth vaulted into the lead on 15-under-par ahead of Sarah Kemp from Australia, with England’s Melissa Reid and Beth Allen of the United States a shot further behind on 13-under-par.
The halfway leader Olafia Kristinsdottir of Iceland didn’t melt in the 33C heat, but she did struggle in the breeze, which gusted up to 15 miles per hour. A two-under-par round of 74 puts the rookie professional in joint fifth on 11-under alongside the seasoned Finn Minea Blomqvist, with England’s Holly Clyburn and Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera tied for seventh place on 10-under-par.
The new leader, Hall, went to the turn in two-under 34 but picked up the pace on the back nine, coming back in 33 with three straight birdies from the 14th hole.
“I hit every fairway, so I’m happy about that. On 14 I hit it to one and a half foot, so that was almost a tap-in and probably the best shot of the day,” she said, adding: “After the great round yesterday I tried to forget about it and act like I just shot level par and I did that. I stayed patient on the front nine, because I had a silly three-putt from about 12 feet, but I’m happy with that five-under and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Hall’s closest challenger, Kemp, was slightly disappointed after taking a bogey on the tough par-4 18th, where she missed the green, but she said: “I played the front nine well. Mel and I had it going, so that was fun. The back nine plays a little bit tougher. Overall it was a good day.”
Reid and Allen also rued their bogeys on the last, despite rounds of 68 and 69 respectively.
Reid, a five-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, said: “It’s a tricky one. I’m hitting 6-iron and still reaching that bunker off the tee. Where the pin was today, it was extremely tricky, especially with that wind. We’re going to have to shoot a low one to give ourselves a chance but there are plenty of birdie opportunities so hopefully we can get off to a fast start again.”
Allen, who claimed her second title at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France a month ago, said: “Three under is a good score but I feel this place is pretty score-able. I know I can do better and tomorrow is really exciting. I’m going to do my best. I will go as low as I can and be really aggressive because everyone is going to have that mentality.”
Kristinsdottir is still in contention for her first title and said: “I just tried to carry on from the previous two days. I didn’t really feel much pressure. I have a good chance if I play well, so let’s go shoot a low one tomorrow.”
Another player searching for a maiden title is Annabel Dimmock, who came close to smashing the course record only to bogey the last hole for a 64. She said: “I’m excited to be playing amongst the best players here so it will be a good experience.”
The final round gets under way at 7.20am on Saturday, with the leading trio of Hall, Reid and Kemp starting at 11.26am local time.
photos Janos Schmidt