Sergas still leads, but Laura lurks

A birdie burst on the closing stretch has given Giulia Sergas a two-shot lead heading into the weekend at the NZ Women’s Open

A birdie burst on the closing stretch has given Giulia Sergas a second round 69 to add to her stunning 64 on Thursday – and sent the Italian into the weekend with two-shot lead.

This meant her overnight lead was pruned by a shot and in the face of a determined second-round charge by defending champion Laura Davies, that may be of some concern to her.

Davies, the defending champion, shrugged away here first round 72 and came storming back with with a 6-under 66 that has put her in joint 4th place, five shots off the pace.

Sergas looked vulnerable after successive three-putts on her ninth, where she was putting for eagle, and 10th holes resulted in her dropping a shot and falling back to her overnight score of eight-under, a shot adrift of Australian Kristie Smith,

But the experienced Sergas, a professional for 11 years, rediscovered her touch after that bogey on her 10th hole and reeled off four straight birdies from the fourth to the seventh to rocket to 11-under.

She said it had been ‘a nice walk in the park’ until the two three-putts happened.

“I thought I can do better than this. Some putts lipped out, but I stayed calm – there was some love for me. I knew it was going to be a hard day for me so I stayed humble,” Sergas said, adding that she was feeling better after a bout of the flu.

The seasoned Italian, despite six top 10 finishes, is still seeking her first win, but she is well-placed going into the weekend rounds and could break her drought on Sunday..

Smith, who had nine birdies and a three-putt bogey at the 15th in her eight-under 64, is alone in second place at nine-under, two better than Swede Linda Wessberg, who equalled the course record of 63 with a round that had 10 birdies, seven of them in a row from the first hole (her 10th).

The best of the New Zealanders was 13-year-old amateur Lydia Ko, who had a bogey-free 68 to finish on six-under in a tie for fourth with Davies, Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg, who had the same score in the afternoon, and France’s Cassandra Kirkland, who had her second 69.

Northland’s Caroline Bon, who turned professional late last year, was the second best Kiwi tied for 10th at four-under while former New Zealand touring pro Liz McKinnon missed the cut but celebrated with a hole-in-one at the par-3 148m 14th hole.

The cut was at four over with 71 professionals and two amateurs – Ko and Auckland’s Cecilia Cho – to play the final two rounds.

Smith, who turned professional in 2008, not long after claiming the Australian women’s amateur championship, had her maiden win in the paid ranks in the Royal Canberra Ladies’ Classic and last year she had her first success on American soil with victory in the Daytona Beach Invitational, a Futures tour event.

Last week the 22-year-old Western Australian was on course for her initial win on the Ladies European Tour after rounds of 67 and 65 at Royal Pines had made her joint leader at halfway, but the weekend rounds turned sour and she finished tied for 23rd.

“This week I’m free-wheeling a bit more and not really caring as much. I get to go home Monday and I’m looking forward to that after not being there for quite a few weeks. I’m happy to have made the cut and I’m going to get a cheque.’

Smith does not have a regular caddy and has been making her own course assessments.

”I’ve got a local caddy on the bag and he’s been great.

“He’s done exactly what I’ve told him and that’s to keep up and shut up. I’ve bee doing my own yardage which is very different and that’s helped keep my mind busy which is nice as it takes some of the anxiety out of the harder shots.”