SALLY Watson showed nerves of steel to keep the European Ladies Tour Rookie of the Year race alive as Shanshan Feng opened up a healthy lead at the halfway stage in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
Facing an early exit after undoing her good early work – three birdies in the first six holes after not managing any in an opening 76 – Watson knocked in an eight-foot birdie putt at the last hole in the second round on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club.
The resultant 70 took Watson through to the final two rounds by the skin of her teeth on two-over-par, but she’s there and, what’s more, a six-shot overnight deficit between her and rookie title rival Amy Boulden is now down to just two.
Ironically, Boulden, who came into the season-ending event leading the Scot by just over £6,000 in that title race, probably helped Watson make the cut, the Welsh girl missing with a similar putt as she carded a 74. Watson saw how it drifted to the right and sent her effort straight into the hole, celebrating it dropping with a fist pump.
“I’m relieved to have made the cut,” admitted Watson. “After yesterday’s round it is just nice to still be playing on the weekend.
“It was great to get off to a strong start today, especially considering the challenge I had given myself after the first round. I worked hard on my putting last night to regain my feel and rhythm so I was happy to see the work pay off.”
A gracious Boulden added: “Sally played fantastic golf today. I hope she carries on playing well over the next two days as hopefully I do, too. I want to win it – I don’t want it to be handed to me.”
Tied for the lead overnight with Sweden’s Carin Koch, Feng, the world No 5 from China, shot a bogey-free 67 to move to 11-under par – four shots ahead of England’s Charley Hull, with Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist, Noora Tamminen from Finland and Gwladys Nocera of France sharing third on six-under.
American Cheyenne Woods, playing her first tournament in Dubai, stayed in the hunt after following her opening 70 with a 69 to reach five-under.
After her round, Woods went to the Burj Al Arab to follow in the footsteps of her uncle, Tiger, who was the first to hit shots from the helipad of the seven-star hotel ten years ago.
“The experience was just awesome,” she said. “I have seen the photos of Tiger hitting the ball, how crazy it was and it went viral. It was a cool opportunity for me to get up there.”
In addition to Watson, Kylie Walker, Kelsey Macdonald and Pamela Pretswell are through to the final two rounds – all sitting in a tie for 34th on one-under – but Vikki Laing, by one shot, and Carly Booth, by five, both missed the cut.