Hudson and Walker share lead

England’s Rebecca Hudson and Sophie Walker fired a pair of five-under-par 67s at Golf de l’Ocean in Agadir to share the first round lead at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.

Hudson birdied two of the last three holes to grab the lead on a becalmed morning while Walker teed off and finished in blustery conditions in the afternoon.

Playing in her first tournament of the season, Hudson reproduced the form that led to her winning four titles on the Ladies European Tour, including three in 2008.

“I’m very happy,” said Hudson. “I hit the ball well. I haven’t done as much practice as I would like but I came out and practised here the last few days. I had the ball under control and putted well and that makes a big difference. Hopefully I can keep this going forward.”

Her preparation over the last fortnight included tiling a friend’s bathroom and she added: “It’s great because she’s got a field behind her house so I’ve just been practising my short game. I have been practising but not long game. I came here and practised my putting. My short game today was very good and I got up and down all but one time.”

Walker hit every fairway and made six birdies and one bogey. She said: “Yesterday I had an afternoon practice round and I thought that would be good preparation because it always gets really windy here. I holed a decent putt on 11 and knocked it really close. Two under after three, you’ve got to take advantage of that.

“It was a couple of clubs wind and on the back nine it was a cross wind a lot. I played well last week but just didn’t putt very well, so the aim this week was to putt better and I did that today. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and try to keep my percentage of fairways up and my putts low.”

Sophie Giquel-Bettan, winner of the Ladies Open de Portugal in 2007, mixed six birdies with two bogeys to sit alone in third on four-under.

The 31-year-old from Lyon said: “I really enjoyed it. With the jet lag from China it was perfect to play early this morning because I was awake so early. It was pretty good. We had perfect conditions, like 20, 24 degrees and the wind picked up around the 14th hole, but it was good conditions and I did the job and it was fun.”

Giquel-Bettan’s husband and occasional caddie Axel is on the bag for French European Tour rookie Gary Stal who is playing in the Hassan Golf Trophy this week at nearby Golf du Palais Royal.

Ariya Jutanugarn, Jing Yan, Nina Holleder, Charley Hull and Laura Davies share fourth place on three-under-par.