Nocera takes over at the top

France’s Gwladys Nocera fired a six-under-par 65 to take a one-stroke lead into the weekend at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.

Last year’s runner-up fired six birdies including four in a row from the first hole on a glorious second day at Golf de L’Ocean in Agadir.

At nine under par, she ended the day one stroke clear of South African Nicole Garcia, who also shot 65.

Nocera said: “I’m really happy with the way things turned out today. I hit the ball well and putted well, so everything is in order. I made a good putt on number one where I was six metres away and then I was two metres away each time, so some good putts. They were not easy, but I hit the ball well.

“I just want to play my game. I’m trying to get ready for next week. I’m playing the ANA Inspiration in the US, so I want my coach to come and work on my game. I’ve always wanted to win this tournament, so that’s why I’m here and I’ll try my best for the weekend.”

Garcia, a second year member of the Ladies European Tour, notched four birdies and an eagle on the front nine and moved into a share of the lead with another birdie on 11 before dropping a shot on 16.

The 24-year-old said: “I had a good front nine and I was hoping to keep it going on the back nine, but I’m happy with the score because the wind picked up a little bit. I think the turning point was the par-5 sixth hole because I made an eagle there and then birdie, birdie. That got me going a bit so that was where my score went low.”

Garcia warmed up for the season with eight starts on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, where she celebrated her maiden win at the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies in February. Before that, Garcia last competed in Morocco in December, where she won the First Stage of the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School and finished fifth in the Final Stage.

“When I first came here I was just hoping to make the cut, and I hope I’ve done that,” she said. “Now, I don’t really have any expectations and I’m just going to play on the weekend.”

Overnight co-leader Ursula Wikstrom fired a three under par 68 to lie in joint third place with French amateur Mathilda Cappeliez, 16, on seven under par.

Fellow Frenchwoman Anne-Lise Caudal and England’s Felicity Johnson share fifth.