Lexi Thompson still out in front

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Lexi Thompson nailed a critical birdie at the 18th hole and holds the lead at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters’

Lexi Thompson of the United States nailed a critical birdie at the 18th hole in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters at the Emirates Golf Club on ‘moving Friday’ to take a one-stroke lead into Saturday’s final round.

The 16-year-old from Coral Springs in Florida posted four birdies and two bogeys in a round of 70 to finish the day at 10 under, one shot ahead of Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson.

The Swede in turn was a shot clear of her compatriot Pernilla Lindberg and South African Lee-Ann Pace, who were tied for third at 8-under with a second South African, Stacy Lee Bregman in joint 5th place with Becky Morgan of Wales and Julieta Grenada of Paraguay at 7-under..

Gustafson was right up there with Thompson as the pair came down the last, but the Swede played her second shot short of the lake protecting the green, whereas Thompson was able to strike a three wood just over the back of the green from 212 yards to set up an eagle opportunity.

The American judged the pace of her first long and slippery downhill putt very well and then holed for birdie from around four feet to move one stroke clear of the Gustafson and the rest of the field.

“I told her just to blast it towards those hospitality tents at the back of the green and it went so straight,” said her father, Scott, who is her caddie.

Thompson added: “Once I saw the drive, I was just like, all right, I probably can go for it from there, and I was 212 to the pin, so I figured my 3-wood’s for sure is going to get there. If not, just go long, which I did.”

Thompson had dropped a shot at the first hole, narrowing her two stroke overnight lead to one, but recovered with a birdie at the third.

She then picked up shots at the 10th and 14th but three-putted the par-three 15th, before closing in style.

Thompson, who loves cats, music, reality television and ladybugs, revealed that she will be wearing her lucky final-round colour of blue on Saturday, having won in the same outfit at the Navistar Classic in September, where she established herself as the youngest ever winner on the LPGA Tour, lowering the previous record by two years.

When asked how she would approach the final round, she said: “I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous on the first tee, but who isn’t going to be? So I’m just going to have fun and relax.”

Her closest rival, Gustafson, said that Thompson was undoubtedly a star of the future.

“She is a fantastic ball-striker and if she just keeps working on the little things and doesn’t start changing something major, then I think she’s going to be really good.

“I think the only way that she does remind me of myself is her power. But I wasn’t anywhere close to being as accurate as she is when I was 16.”

On her own round of 69, which contained five birdies and two bogeys, Gustafson said: “Before I went out today out I was thinking a ten would be a good number to get to and that was what I was working towards.”

South African Lee-Anne Pace and Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg were just two strokes off the lead in joint third on eight under par.

Pace is more relaxed than 12 months ago, as she is not challenging for the Henderson Money List and Player of the Year titles which she won last year.

On her bogey-free 67, she said: “I Played really well today, obviously. No bogeys, which was a goal at the beginning of the day. And also very close to my goal that I set in the beginning of the week. I thought 3-under every day would be a pretty good score at the end of the week, and I’m only one off that.”

Lindberg started slowly with a one-over front nine total of 36, but fired five birdies on the back nine to come home with a 68.

She explained: “Coming here with four straight top 10s on the LET makes me feel I’ve got the game in me, so it’s fun to be up there.”

Stacy Lee Bregman, Becky Morgan and Julieta Granada remained in the hunt tied for fifth on seven under par while American Michelle Wie ended the day five shots off the lead in eighth on five under.

Wie dropped a shot early on at the second but recovered with three birdies against a bogey on the back nine. She said: “Today was pretty frustrating. You know, but at least I made birdie on the last hole, made me feel good about myself, but tomorrow I just gotta go out there and really shoot low.”

Meanwhile, last week’s Hero Women’s Indian Open champion Caroline Headwall shot a 68 to move into a share of ninth at four under par.

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