Balikoeva on top in Tenerife

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Maria Balikoeva fired a second round of three under par 69 to take the halfway lead in the Tenerife Open de Espana Femenino.

The glamorous 28-year-old Russian carded six birdies and three bogeys in hot and breezy conditions at Golf Costa Adeje to end the day on seven under par ahead of three other players.

Scotland’s Kylie Walker (71), Welshwoman Amy Boulden (69) and South African Connie Chen (70) all sit on six under but Solheim Cup winners Carlota Ciganda of Spain and Charley Hull from England lurk a stroke further behind.

The stunning sea-side course seems to suit Balikoeva’s game as her best finishes on the Ladies European Tour in 2008 and 2009, of tied fifth and equal 24th respectively, were recorded on the same golf course.

Now in her eighth year on tour, she is looking to better her career best finish of tied fourth at the 2013 Pilsen Golf Masters and 2014 Turkish Airlines Ladies Open, with a podium performance this weekend.

The two-time Russian Amateur Champion started with three straight birdies before dropping a shot on the fourth hole. She birdied holes nine and 11 before dropping two more strokes on the 14th and 17th but was all smiles after finishing with a birdie on the closing hole.

“We were unlucky because we played in the afternoon yesterday and I played today again when it was windy but I played really well. It’s just a shame that on the last few holes I dropped but I’m happy about my score,” said Balikoeva. “On 17, I didn’t think it would be as quick as it was. It went three metres past and I didn’t hole it back. The greens are really quick, especially going down the grain. I’m not used to such quick greens. I was quite gentle the first nine holes and then it just went. Either it was my nerves or I wanted to finish the round, I don’t know.”

Walker, with two play-off victories this summer in Holland and Germany, said after her round: “It was pretty solid because the wind is quite gusty so I’m happy with one under. I didn’t hit it quite as good today. I definitely hit it better yesterday, certainly off the tee.”

In a similarly rich vein of form, Boulden, with two top five finishes in German and the Czech Republic in July, carded a second successive 69 to be one shot from the lead. The rookie professional said: “It was a tough day and it was pretty windy but I think it was the same all day so it’s been pretty fair for all the players. I kept steady and grinded it out really. I’m feeling confident about my game at the moment and I’m playing well each week so I’m hoping a win is around the corner really.”

Another player hoping to earn a breakthrough victory is Chen, who is in contention for the first time in Europe. She said: “My game was pretty good today. I got a bit nervous on the last few holes, so I did make a few silly mistakes. I had a lot of really good chances today and putting, I was a little tentative. I left a lot of them short. I’m one shot off the lead and it’s not too bad going into the third round. If you want something badly you get nervous and it’s natural.”

Second year professional Hull held a one stroke lead after her first nine holes and was tied for the lead after 10 before she double bogeyed the short fifth hole, where she hit her tee shot short of the green.

“I started off really good and my front nine, I played really well, solid, which was the back nine on the golf course. I hit my drives really well and putted well and hit it close. On the back nine I ran out of gas,” said Hull.

While Ciganda was also in the mix in a share of fifth, fellow Spanish Solheim Cup player Azahara Munoz was back in a tie for 24th place on one over par and with a second round of 76, first round leader Trish Johnson moved into a share of eighth place on three under par.

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