IT’S a promoter’s dream. The event’s two star attractions, Suzann Pettersen and Lydia Ko, both to the fore in the final round. It’s the sort of scenario that would normally have the money men rubbing their hands with glee. Not on this occasion, though. Continuing a policy that was in place during its five-year stay at Archerfield Links, the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open offers free admission. It means the real winners as two players inside the world’s top ten set out in the last couple of groups in today’s final round at Dundonald Links are the Scottish golfing public.
Helped by the Ayrshire coast missing some of the heavy showers that have peppered the rest of the country, the crowds have been great for the opening two days. With the leaderboard looking tasty, it should be the same for the denouement. Waterproofs could be required, though, and a liking for windy conditions.
Pettersen, who holds a two-shot lead over England’s Holly Clyburn on six-under-par after tacking a 70 on to her opening 68, and Ko both looked as though they’d just had a meeting with the Grim Reaper on appearing from the recorder’s hut. In fact, they’d just read an official tournament forecast that was predicting winds rising to 25mph. Perhaps more reliable, the Met Office is saying it won’t be quite as blowy, with a maximum of 16mph, but one thing that seems certain is that the leaders will be out in the toughest conditions.
“It is what it is,” said Pettersen, using a phrase that has suddenly been commonplace in sport. “If it does blow how they say it will blow, it will be quite a challenge. A little breeze into your face on a shot and all of a sudden you’re looking at a two-club difference.”
Seeking a 24th career victory but her first on Scottish soil, the 34-year-old picked up three of her four second-day birdies at par-5s. The only long hole she didn’t gain against was the last. “It was a lot of fun,” said Pettersen, jokingly. “It felt like a lot of shots but there were only five on the card. I was a bit unfortunate off the tee with my only poor drive of the day. A birdie there or at 17, where I had a 12-foot putt, would have given me a little bit more room, but two under today is a good score as this is a good course with a lot of challenges. You’ve got to be on top of your game.”
Ko, who started the day sharing the lead but now trails by three, described her three-over back nine in a round of 73 as “very average”. The damage was done by four bogeys in six holes. “I kind of got stressed out a bit today,” admitted the 18-year-old New Zealander, who got riled with herself when an approach to the 12th went long then the one at the next came up short. “I just kind of lost it a bit,” she added. “It took me a couple of holes to get over it and say, ‘hey, you’ve got to have fun’.”
The two big guns were denied the opportunity to go head-to-head in the last round when Clyburn, a 24-year-old from Grimsby with one LET title to her name, came in with a best-of-the-day 67 in one of the final groups. It was one better than compatriot Charley Hull’s effort, which catapulted her from close to the cut line following an opening 76 into the top ten. “I wasn’t comfortable with my driver yesterday and the way I was hitting it so I spoke to my coach last night and he said to grow a pair of balls and hit it around here,” said the 18-year-old. “I hit a lot of drives today and did a lot better.”
Four-under for the tournament after her opening six holes, Kelsey MacDonald was Pettersen’s closest challenger until having the wind taken out of her sails by a double-bogey. “That threw me a bit, but I fought really hard on my back nine to try and stop it getting away from me,” admitted the 24-year-old from Nairn.
A birdie from 15 feet down the slope at the ninth – her last – for a 75 retained her position as leading Scot, a shot ahead of two-times winner Catriona Matthew (72), on one-over. On her 25th birthday, Cheyenne Woods, Tiger’s niece, missed the cut by two shots on nine-over.