Dubai: China`s world number five Feng Shanshan, the highest ranked player in the field, lived up to her billing as the pre-tournament favourite as she opened up a four-shot lead on top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the 500,000 euros Dubai Ladies Masters, the season-ending championship of the Ladies European Tour on Thursday.
At the Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club, Shanshan added a bogey-free five-under par 67 to her first-round effort of 66 to reach 11-under par 133 after two rounds.
England`s 18-year-old Charley Hull, the reigning Order of Merit leader, did her chances of becoming the new European number one no harm when, despite a double bogey on her final hole, she finished on two-under par 70 to tally seven-under par 137.
But Hull will have her task cut out over the next two days as France`s Gwladys Nocera, who trails her by 22,716 euros, moved to within one shot with a round of three-under par 69.
Nocera was tied third at six-under par 138 alongside Sweden`s world number 12 Anna Nordqvist (69) and Finland`s Noora Tamminen (66).
Nocera is the only player who can overtake Hull and she will have to finish inside the top-four to have a mathematical chance of doing that.
Shanshan, winner of one major title (the 2012 LPGA Championship) and three other tournaments on the LPGA Tour, started on the 10th tee, and made three birdies on her way out and added two more coming in.
"I think yesterday I played really well, and today I didn`t make as many birdies as I did yesterday. But it was a bogey?free round with five birdies, so I think I did really well," said Shanshan.
"I said my goal was to finish inside the top-three, and I have a habit that I don`t look at the leaderboards. I only check it out, like on the afternoon of the final round.
"So, while I`m not really trying to guess where I`m at, but I would say I feel comfortable at the position and really looking forward for two more good days."
Hull started with a bogey on the difficult opening hole of the Emirates Golf Club, but steadied the ship with five birdies thereafter before dunking her third shot in the water guarding the front of the 18th green and made a double bogey.
"I actually hit a pretty good shot into 18. The wind really gusted when I hit that shot," said Hull.
"I was four?under until then but still finished two?under which isn`t too bad.
"Gwladys is playing great at the moment. It`s not over yet and I think she`ll definitely finish in the top four because she`s playing really good. So, I`ll have to dig deep tomorrow."
The other battle in the tournament, that for the Rookie of the Year, will also be going full distance after Scotland`s Sally Watson shot a two-under par 70 and needed to make a birdie on her final hole to make the cut exactly on the number at two-over 146.
Watson is trailing Wales` Amy Boulden, who is ahead by two shots despite a round of two-over par 74.