Saika edges clear at Evian

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Japan’s Miki Saiki, thanks to a 5-under 67, held a one shot lead after Friday’s 2nd round of the soon-to-be a major Evian Masters.

Japan’s Miki Saiki, thanks to a 5-under par 67, held a one shot lead after Friday’s second round of the soon-to-be a major Evian Masters.

The 26-year-old from Hiroshima went out early and set the early target at nine under on a glorious second day at Evian Masters Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains, France.

It was never matched and now, heading into the weekend, the world number 22 heads two of the three joint overnight leaders, Swede Maria Hjorth (69) and Korean Shin-Ae Ahn (69), along with American Stacy Lewis (67), the 2009 winner Ai Miyazato (68) of Japan and a second American Angela Stanford, who shot a best of the day matching 66.

The third overnight co-leader Karen Stupples of England kept herself in the hunt for a first Evian title with a 70 to end the day at seven under alongside American stars Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr, just two shots off the pace..

The 2010 champion Jiyai Shin had five birdies and two bogeys for a 69 to share 10th spot with Korean compatriot Ran Hong.

Saiki was one of the early starters and had a sensational front nine that produced five birdies. She reached 10 under par with a birdie at the 11th but immediately dropped a shot at the 12th.

“Yesterday I was hitting the ball really well, and it kind of continued on to today,” Saika said afterwards.

“I was able to hit well and also putt well,” Saiki said through a translator.

“I kind of struggled in the end, but all in all, it was a good day. Yesterday obviously was a day of a lot rain and you didn’t know what you were going to get. Today you had no wind and the greens were consistent.

Saiki is currently ranked second on the 2011 LPGA of Japan money list after one victory at the Fudokin Ladies and three runner-up spots.

European fans may recognise her from the 2007 Ricoh Women’s British Open at St. Andrews where she finished seventh. She tied for 53rd at the 2010 Evian Masters and hopes to become the third Japanese winner of the event following wins by Hiromi Kobayashi (1997) and Ai Miyazato (2009).

Having finished second in 1998 and 2001 and joint runner-up in 2002, Hjorth would love to become the fourth Swedish winner of the Evian Masters, following on from the success of Helen Alfredsson (’94, ’98 and ’08), Catrin Nilsmark (’99) and Annika Sorenstam (2000 and 2002).

Four birdies and one bogey placed her just one shot behind the leader and she said: “I’m definitely satisfied. I didn’t hit it as close as yesterday and my putts were not as aggressive, so I left a few putts short, but I’m playing solid so I’m very happy with my round. I need to be a little more aggressive with my putts. Because they (the greens) are so fast it’s easy to be a little bit too defensive with them.”

Stupples, who is currently two strokes off the pace after mixing five birdies with three bogeys, said: “It was a rollercoaster: some good, some bad, but I think for the second round I’m in a good spot.

“After yesterday’s round, I put a lot of energy into playing as well as I did yesterday in that horrible weather. Today I tried to consolidate a little. To try to get anything under par was my real goal for the day and with two under I managed to do that. I’m obviously a couple of shots back so I’ve got to keep pressing forward and shoot as many birdies as I can.”

LET Rookie Caroline Headwall of Sweden, making her tournament debut, shot a 66 to end the day at five under alongside Scot Catriona Matthew among others.

Headwall, with two Ladies European Tour victories already this season, said: “I got a good start and could have been seven under after seven holes because I had birdie putts on every hole. I played really well and it feels good. Hopefully I can continue to play as well as I did today.”

Suzann Pettersen and Virginie Lagoutte-Clement were in a group five shots off the pace at four under par, with Sophie Gustafson a stroke further back.

Melissa Reid kept herself in the running with a 70 to end two under alongside world number one Yani Tseng among others.

Anne-Lise Caudal finished in a group at one under while Christina Kim, Sandra Gal, Gwladys Nocera, Iben Tinning, Trish Johnson and Anna Nordqvist were the other European Tour members who will play the weekend after surviving the halfway cut.

TOP 10 LEADERBOARD

135 – Miki Saiki (JPN) 68 67

136 – Stacy Lewis (USA) 69 67, Angela Stanford (USA) 70 66, Ai Miyazato (JPN) 68 68, Maria Hjorth (SWE) 67 69, Shin Ae Ahn (KOR) 67 69

137 – Paula Creamer (USA) 70 67, Karen Stupples (ENG) 67 70, Cristie Kerr (USA) 68 69

138 – Ran Hong (KOR) 69 69, Jiyai Shin (KOR) 69 69

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