Watson breezes into halfway lead

Sally Watson used her experience of playing on Scotland’s finest links courses to construct an impressive second round of five-under-par 67 and lead the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open presented by Respect on Friday.

Whilst many of the players were blown off course by the afternoon’s swirling wind which dried Gray Bear’s fast and undulating greens and fairways further, Watson cleverly plotted her way around the golf course and felt particularly comfortable on the greens.

“I think I’m at an advantage coming from Scotland because we play in the wind a lot,” said the 23-year-old LET rookie from Elie. “I’m definitely experienced in those sorts of conditions and I putted really well yesterday on these greens. When you have a good feel on the greens that carries over and especially when the weather is a little tougher, you’ve got to be able to make the putts. Thankfully today for me they went in.

“Playing in links conditions growing up, you’re used to landing the ball 20 yards short of the pin and being creative around the greens. Sometimes you can use the slopes to your advantage if you can see the shot so I’ve done a good job of that and when I’ve been in trouble, getting out.”
After a steady opening nine containing two birdies against one birdie, Watson found her stride on the back nine, picking up four birdies in five holes from the 11th to establish a three stroke lead over the field at eight-under-par.

It fits perfectly into the symmetry of her season so far in which she has improved her results considerably in every Ladies European Tour event. Now she is leading for the first time.

“I’m excited to be in this position as starting out at the beginning of the year, this was one of my goals, putting myself in contention to win. Hopefully I can continue to play solid golf and stick to my process. I still feel like I’ve left some shots out there so I’ll continue to sharpen up my mental game and hopefully the putts continue to drop and see what we can do this weekend.”

It has been an impressive stretch for the young Britons on tour, with Charley Hull and Kylie Walker becoming first-time winners in recent weeks, but three strokes behind Watson are two other players in rich form: Valentine Derrey of France, who won the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open and Klara Spilkova from the Czech Republic, who ended sixth in the same tournament.

Derrey reached eight under after 14 holes but dropped a shot on the treacherous sixth before taking a double bogey at the eighth. She scrambled a par on the ninth, her last hole, to sign for a 70 and a share of second place.

She said: “I played pretty well on the back nine, three-under. I was playing well on my back nine and just had a bad hole on eight. The greens are hard and not easy with the wind, so you have to play smart and try to get your pars when the holes are difficult.”

Spilkova went out in level par and was delighted to have finished strongly with four birdies on the back nine. She said: “This is like my second home and I feel really good in Slovakia. I made a lot of birdies, so I’m happy today.”

A round of 69 for the glamorous Russian Maria Balikoeva took her into a share of fourth place at three-under with Denmark’s Malene Jorgensen (71). English duo Liz Young and Eleanor Givens were a stroke further behind in a share of sixth place with Sweden’s Camilla Lennarth. Meanwhile the recent Deloitte Ladies Open champion and first round leader Kylie Walker added a 78 to her opening 68 to drop into a share of 15th place.