Nocera holds on in New Delhi

Gwladys Nocera fired a second round of one under par 72 at Delhi Golf Club on Friday to maintain her lead at the Hero Women’s Indian Open.

At 10 under par, the experienced Frenchwoman is two strokes clear of Indian rookie professional Vaishavi Sinha.

Three strokes further back on five under par is last year’s champion Thidapa Suwannapura from Thailand, who would likely to need to equal her first round of six under par from last year to challenge.

Glamorous Indian professional Sharmila Nicollet is in a share of fourth place with English duo Hannah Burke and Holly Clyburn and Belgian Chloe Leurquin on four under par.

But Nocera, a 12 Ladies European Tour winner, felt that the difference between her opening 64 (-9) and today’s 72 was purely her putting.

“I played well but the putts didn’t drop. Today 15 greens and 33 putts. Yesterday II had 26 putts,” she said.

She also felt the pin positions were more challenging. “I think the pins were tough today – beside major slopes – and it was tricky.”

She had two birdies against one bogey on the front nine and made nine pars on the back nine, but missed a short birdie chance on the last hole, after the ball hit a spike mark.

Although Nocera was fairly satisfied, Sinha was unhappy with her second round 71, as her ball striking did not match the first round.

“Yesterday I hit 12 greens and today I hit 10 greens,” said Sinha. “My hitting was a lot worse today and it was quite frustrating because I didn’t miss greens just on the edge, I was missing way left and they were wild shots, so my short game was really good today.”

The Symetra Tour player from the nearby city of Noida, 25km from Delhi Golf Club, hopes to have double cause for celebration on Saturday, her 24th birthday.

Should she win, she would become the first Indian winner on the Ladies European Tour. Smriti Mehra is currently the only Indian woman to have won a professional golf tournament outside India, with three wins on the Futures Tour, now called the Symetra Tour and three in Asia. She is also the only Indian player to have competed on the US LPGA Tour where she played for 14 years.

Nicollet also has a chance to become the first Indian winner after two straight rounds of 71. Her second 71 included an eagle on the par-5 eighth, but she made bogey on the last, blaming it on bad light.

“I think I was playing well. I started off badly with two bogeys and I hit one in the trees with a penalty,” said Nicollet, from Bangalore. “Overall my putting was really good: 28 yesterday and 29 today so it’s improved overall and I’m playing well with the game I have this week. You never know what happens tomorrow and I’m going for the win.”