Shanshan Feng takes halfway lead at Dubai Masters

The highest ranked player in the field, world number six Feng added a second successive bogey-free round of five-under par 67.

AFP| Last Updated: Dec 10, 2015, 22:56 PM IST
Shanshan Feng takes halfway lead at Dubai Masters

LPGA Tour star and defending champion Shanshan Feng of China lived up to her billing as the pre-tournament favourite as she took a two-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Dubai Ladies Masters on Thursday.

The highest ranked player in the field, world number six Feng added a second successive bogey-free round of five-under par 67 to move to 10-under par after 36 holes. 

She has already won the tournament twice - in 2012 and 2014 - and is bidding to become the first three-time winner in the season-ending championship of the Ladies European Tour.

Two shots behind Feng and in solo second place was British 52-year-old legend Laura Davies, who shot a second straight round of 68 despite playing through pain with a torn tendon in her left ankle.

Thailand`s Pornanong Phatlum (68), the 2013 champion, was tied third at five-under par along with Sweden`s Caroline Hedwall (68),

Feng, who started on the relatively easier back nine of the Majlis course, could not get her first birdie in the first five holes that included two par-5s. But she made back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th holes, and then picked up three shots coming in.

But the Chinese star revealed she was battling a strain in her neck, one which was serious enough to call for medical help on the 17th hole, her eighth.

"It was a little problem with the neck and the upper back. So I called for the physio. She came on the 17th hole, worked on it a little bit and it did not really bother the swing," Feng said.

"I think my ball-striking was not bad. I was leaving the balls a little bit shorter after I saw the physio. But I wasn`t far away off the green. So I could still make the two putts.

"Made just a couple of birdies on the par 5s but I think this is just a course for birdies. So we`re not really thinking about bogeys."

After a round that included five birdies and a bogey, Davies said her torn tendon could have played a positive role in her doing well so far in the tournament.

The World Golf Hall of Famer said: "It`s only with the driver that I feel it. The irons, it doesn`t matter. Sometimes with a 2-iron as well. If I`m trying to hit a 2-iron I still have to load up on that left side but it`s just the driver.

"I`m not 100 percent hitting it with the driver, but like I say, maybe that`s a good thing because I`m driving it quite straight and perhaps not lashing it as I hopefully will do again when this is fixed.

"It was good round today. Probably a better round than yesterday because of the wind. It was really tricky. I hit a lot of long irons into the par 4s because a lot of them were into the wind today. So, very pleased, and also 31 putts today, which is pretty good."

The French duo of Ariane Provot (67) and Jade Schaeffer (71) were tied fifth at four-under par 140.

Nanna Koerstz Madsen opened up a big gap on Emily Kristine Pedersen in the all-Dane battle for the Rookie of the Year honours.

Madsen added a 73 to her overnight 70 to be tied 14th at one-under par, while Pedersen slipped way behind with a 78. However, Madsen needs to finish inside the top-two in the tournament to stand any chance of overtaking her compatriot.

American internet sensation Paige Spiranac, who has nearly half a million followers on Instagram and was given a special invitation to play the tournament, missed the cut in her professional debut. 

The 22-year-old followed her 77 on Wednesday with a 79 on Thursday to be tied 101st on 156.