Sweden’s Lotta Wahlin upstaged all the big names in the field as she stormed to the top of the leaderboard on Wednesday at the 500,000 euro (US$649,750) Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, the season-ending championship on the Ladies European Tour.
At the Majlis course of the Emirates Golf Club, the 28-year-old made full use of better scoring conditions in the morning and mixed seven birdies with a lone bogey to go one shot clear of Wales’ Becky Brewerton.
The US’ Michelle Wie, the highest ranked player in the field, finished later in the afternoon with a one-over-par 73 round, while 16-year-old history-maker Alexis Thompson closed with three straight birdies for a two-under-par 70.
Linda Wessberg of Sweden, Minea Blomqvist of Finland, Julieta Granada of Paraguay and Stacy Lee Bregman of South Africa were tied third on a 68.
Wahlin, who survived a cancer scare two years ago, started at the 10th and picked up shots at the 12th and 13th, before dropping a stroke on the par-four 16th. She then made five birdies on her back nine (the more difficult front nine of the course) to come back in five-under-par 30.
A two-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, Wahlin mostly stayed in the cooler climes of Sweden last year before making her return this year and she was delighted with her own performance.
“I’m so happy. I finally had a good round, finally able to make all the putts. I’m just so happy,” Wahlin said.
Thompson, who earlier this year became the youngest player ever to win on the LPGA Tour, said she was delighted with the way she finished her round — making birdies on each hole from the 16th onwards.
“I feel pretty good. I hit it really well. It’s just I struggled with my putter until the 16th hole, then I figured something out, and it went well for the last three,” the American world No. 53 said.
“I’ll work on my putting for a little bit, what I was working on for the last three holes, and go out strong tomorrow and the next three days,” she added.
Wie, who finished second and sixth in her previous two visits to Dubai, made three bogeys apart from birdies on the 16th and 18th holes.
“It was frustrating. I just felt like it was just one of those days where nothing really went in — nothing kind of went my way. I just kind of grinded out there and it was pretty frustrating that I was one-over-par today,” the 22-year-old said. “During the last nine holes, I felt like the wind judgement was a little bit difficult for me.”
“So hopefully, I will judge it better tomorrow and just go out there and make some more birdies,” Wie said.