Whittaker leads in South Africa

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Leigh Whittaker fired a career and tournament low round of five-under-par 67 to take a one stroke lead into the final day of the Cell C South African Women’s Open.

On the first full day of clear weather in this 54-hole tournament, the 26-year-old from Baden-Baden in south western Germany took advantage of the favourable afternoon conditions to post a two-round total of four-under-par at San Lameer Country Club. She is one stroke clear of England’s Holly Clyburn and Germany’s Ann-Kathrin Lindner.

Leading a Ladies European Tour event for the first time, Whittaker is now seeking to become the second German winner of the tournament in the last three years following Caroline Masson’s triumph at Selborne Park Golf Club in 2012.

“I was one over through three and I just played one shot at a time and judged the wind and the situation,” said the 115th ranked Whittaker, after recording her first round in the 60s in two years as a professional.

“I’m normally pretty straight, so I hit 17 greens and I was never really far away from the pin so I gave myself chances to make the putts and I had a few long ones and a few short ones too.”

As a member of Golf Club St Leon-Rot, which will host The Solheim Cup in less than a year’s time, Whittaker shares a home course with Lindner, last year’s Sberbank Golf Masters champion. The pair are also staying with the same German host family this week – and they now share a final round tee time: in the last group at 12:05 with the 2013 Deloitte Ladies Open winner Clyburn.

Having played in the morning draw in the first round, the leading trio were all able to rest for a full day when Friday’s play was washed out. “We were really lucky with the draw but that’s golf and you’ve got to take it as it comes and I think I just used it as well to have a good time,” said Whittaker.

England’s Charley Hull was the best of the players on the other side of the draw and she ended the day in a share of fourth position with Fabienne In-Albon of Switzerland, who is also staying with the same host family as Lindner and Whittaker.

Overnight leader Hull would have been tied for the lead but was given a two-stroke penalty that saw her finish the day on two under and with a 74.

On the par-three 16th green, Hull’s putter slipped out of her hand, moving her golf ball. That was already a one-stroke penalty. But Hull played the ball from its new position, and that earned her a two-stroke penalty.

“It’s disappointing, but that’s golf I suppose,” she said. “I’m not too fazed by it because I can’t do too much about. I think I played pretty well out there overall. On the final day I can still make plenty of birdies, so I’ll be fine,” she said, having responded to her penalty with birdies at 17 and 18.

A trio of French players lie in a share of sixth place on one under par: Gwladys Nocera, Valentine Derrey and Sophie Giquel-Bettan.
Lee-Anne Pace is the leading South African four strokes off the lead on level par alongside Sweden’s Julia Davidsson and German Nina Holleder.

“I’m feeling good. I’m hitting the ball fantastically well. I just need to make some birdies now,” said Pace, who is seeking to become the first South African winner of this championship since 2009, when Tandi Cuningham won.

While not entirely satisfied with her round, Pace was pleased to finally get an uninterrupted round under her belt.

“I’m not quite happy with 73. I didn’t hit it as close as I wanted to. I hit some great shots but didn’t get the results. But it was nice to get in a full round today. It helps to get a bit of momentum going.”

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