Stupples in three-way Evian tie

England’s Karen Stupples, Sweden’s Maria Hjorth, and South Korean Shin-Ae Ahn are tied for the lead at the Evian Masters.

England’s Karen Stupples, Sweden’s Maria Hjorth, and South Korean Shin-Ae Ahn are tied for the lead at the Evian Masters.

The trio shot five under par 67s at a rain lashed Evian Masters in the French Alps with Stupples and Hjorth having to battle hardest in a heavy morning downfall.

They are a shot clear of a six-strong logjam in fourth place on 68 that included Americans Cristie Kerr, the current World No 2, and Brittany Lincicome and Japan’s Ai Miyazato and two in front of World No 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan, who is tied with Stacy Lewis, a recent major winner, and Jiyai Shin, the defending champion, in a third group in joint 10th place on 69.

Hjorth, the 37-year-old World No.18, carded five birdies on the front nine helped no end by a display of silky putting in the worst of the conditions.

The four-time European Solheim Cup team player established a three stroke lead with further birdies on the 11th and 12th holes, but finished with three straight bogeys after missing the greens as the sun began to shine.

“For the most part I played very solid,” said Hjorth, who claimed her sixth career victory at the AVNET LPGA Classic in Mobile, Alabama, in May..

“Obviously it’s hard with these greens, because they spin a lot, or I spin the ball a lot, so it’s difficult to get the ball close to the hole.

‘I think the course is obviously playing a bit longer because the ball is obviously not going, you know, very far once it lands on the soft fairways.

‘I think you’ve got to make sure you hit the fairways. If you’re in the rough, the rough is a little but thick due to the rain obviously and the wetness of the course.

‘But the greens are playing superb. They’re really, really fast, the fastest I think they’ve ever been. I’ve been here 15 years now. So they played really nice and are rolling great.’

She estimated that she had taken 26 putts throughout the round, using the long putter. ‘I did make a few longer putts. There were probably a few that were 20, 25 feet, maybe one that was 30 feet.’

Stupples, the 2004 Women’s British Open champion, also had a round of two halves.

After an indifferent front nine of one over 37 included a double-bogey seven at the ninth when she hit the ball out of bounds, she came storming through on the back nine five birdies.

‘I think the weather was pretty grim to start with. I think it took a while to get used to that. It’s been a while since I played in conditions like that. We’re very spoiled in America,’ said the 38-year-old from Kent.

“Typically if you’re going to get rain it’s a thunderstorm so you don’t play in it. So you had to get used to the rain jacket on, rain jacket off, or just play in it. Seemed like after I made the double bogey on 9, it was almost like the kick I needed to get going.’

The rain has made the greens a bit like dart boards, so you can fire at the pins. And even though some of them were cut pretty close to the edges, you could still have a good crack at them. I was hitting my irons well, so feeling very confident with them and with my putter, too. I feel really good rolling the ball right now. The greens are perfect.’

TOP 10 Leaderboard

67 Karen Stupples (ENG), Maria Hjorth (SWE), Shin Ae Ahn (KOR)
68 Ritsuka Ryu (JPN), Ai Miyazato (JPN), Brittany Lincicome (USA), Cristie Kerr (USA), Miki Saiki (JPN), Shanshan Feng (CHN)
69 Jiyai Shin (KOR), Virginie Lagoutte-Clement (FRA), Ran Hong (KOR), In-Bee Park (KOR), Eun Hee Ji (KOR), Stacy Lewis (USA), Yani Tseng (TPE) Taiwan