It will probably require the best round of her career but, seven years after winning the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open on an invitation at Archerfield Links, Carly Booth is in with a chance of repeating the feat next door at The Renaissance Club.
Four of the world’s top players, including one of this year’s major winners, stand between the 27-year-old Comrie woman and history repeating itself, but, on the evidence of the last two days on the East Lothian coast, that certainly can’t be discounted.
Booth followed up a second-round 67 with an even more impressive 66. She’s not dropped a shot in 35 holes. On 10-under, the Scot is sitting joint-fifth, six shots off the lead, held by Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn as she bids to keep the title in the family following her sister, Ariya, winning at Gullane 12 months ago.
“Maybe it’s the home feeling,” said Booth of this event bringing out the best in her again. “I can’t say it’s because I know the course because I’ve never played here before. But it’s always nice to play at home and, knowing that my game has been solid coming into the week, I have no reason not to be happy.”
Everyone was a lot happier on the East Lothian coast than had been the case on Friday in the $1.5 million event. While the morning starters in the second round had to battle appalling conditions, the afternoon wave got it easy in comparison. It produced a staggering statistic. Whereas the late starters were a combined 62-under, the morning wave was 307-over. Over the first two days, the late/morning wave enjoyed a 6.05 shot advantage.
Among those to benefit, Booth said: “It is what it is. There are times where you have the bad side of the draw. I’ve had my ups and downs with that and I’m happy with how everything’s gone so far this week.”
Playing with two former Solheim Cup players in Georgia Hall and Madelene Sagstrom, she got off to the perfect start. “I had 130 into the wind on the first hole, and I just really gripped down on an 8 and hit it to like a foot,” she said of an opening birdie. “I’ll take that one to start a round.”
Booth’s career hit the buffers after winning twice on the LET in 2012, but, now coached by European Tour player Robert Rock, she’s back playing with her old confidence. That was evident as she went on to birdie the fourth, seventh, tenth and 14th as well in near-perfect conditions.
“I played very solid today. If I missed any shots, it was in the right place. It’s funny how much your mindset changes, too. When you start playing well, you start rolling the ball; you just see yourself holing the putts so much. Like you’re getting mad at yourself for missing 25-footers. It’s actually great to have that feeling. It really feels good.”
Today’s final round will determine the eight automatic qualifiers for Europe’s Solheim Cup team at Gleneagles, where captain Catriona Matthew will announce her four picks tomorrow. Can Booth get into the frame with one big final push? “I’m not thinking about it any more,” she said of that possibility. “It is what it is. I can only just go out and play my best and we’ll see.”
The leader, who is bidding for a second LPGA win, carded six birdies in a 67, which left her a shot ahead of two Koreans, US Women’s Open champion Jeongeun Lee (66) and halfway pacesetter Mi Jung Hur (70), with 2017 winner Mi Hyang Lee (68) fourth on 12-under. “I’m just trying to play my game and have fun out there,” said Jutanugarn, inset, who has been cooking for her sister this week and is happy to keep her chef’s hat on if another celebratory family meal is in order. “I would never want to try her food,” she said of Ariya, who is lurking ominously alongside Booth on 10-under.