Koch surges as Verchenova slips

Carin Koch has grabbed a one stroke lead heading into Saturday’s final round of the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.

Carin Koch has grabbed a one stroke lead heading into Saturday’s final round of the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.

The stately Swede carded three birdies on a warm and humid afternoon at at Royal Golf Anfa Mohammédia and didn’t drop a shot to post her second successive 69.

At six-under after 36-holes, she is firmly on track for her fourth career title and first since the 2005 Corona Morelia Championship.

England’s Melissa Reid shot a 71 and finished at five under along with Germany’s Anja Monke, who had an impressive round of 68 and early clubhouse leader Vikki Laing of Scotland, who shot a 71.

Maria Verchenova of Russia, the first round leader, carded a 73 and slipped back into a share of fifth at four under with Scotland’s Pamela Feggans (69), England’s Florentyna Parker (69), Spain’s Emma Cabrera Bello (70) and Christel Boeljon (68) of the Netherlands.

South African Ashleigh Simon posted a tournament-low 66 for a share of 10th with Australian Stephanie Na and Henrietta Zuel. The trio are three strokes off the pace.

Koch, who has a cold, is playing in her first tournament of the year and, for the first time since 1994, will play full time on the Ladies European Tour in 2010

During the past 15 years she has been playing most of her golf on the US-based LPGA Tour.

She has been practising on the driving range in snow storms in Sweden over the winter and putting on a matt in her living room.

Her dedication paid off on Friday when she birdied the first, second and sixth holes then took 12 successive pars for a one stroke advantage.

She said: “I played really well on the front nine and beginning of the back nine. I didn’t like the way I played the last few holes but maybe I was getting tired. I made some good putts in the beginning, but there were a lot of chances I didn’t make, kind of like yesterday.

“I didn’t think I would be after hitting balls in the snow all winter. It’s not really what I expected when I came here but it’s always great to be in contention and I’ve been working on my swing and mentally. I’ll keep doing that tomorrow and try to play my best golf.”

Reid, the leading rookie on the LET in 2008, started from the 10th and held a one stroke lead at seven-under-par after 16 holes and was therefore clearly frustrated after dropping shots at her last two holes, the eighth and the ninth.

She said: “I am a little annoyed about the last two holes. I hit a bad shot into eight and didn’t have a great lie in the bunker and then on the ninth I miss clubbed as I didn’t take into account my adrenaline. It’s a bit annoying but I’ve still shot under par and I’m one off the lead so I just need a low one tomorrow now.”

Reid is targeting a maiden tournament victory, as is Laing, while Monke is aiming for her third victory after wins in France and Dubai in 2008.