DUBAI: Even a storming finish by Thai LPGA Tour star Thidapa Suwannapura, who made six birdies in her last six holes, wasn’t enough to stop defending champion Shanshan Feng of China from taking a five-shot lead at the end of the penultimate round of the Dubai Ladies Masters on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
World number six Feng, the highest ranked player in the field and two-time winner of the season-ending championship of the Ladies European Tour, shot her third successive round of five-under par 67 to move to 15-under par for the tournament.
At one stage, she led the field by a whopping margin of ten shots, but that was whittled down to five as she failed to maintain the momentum on the back nine, while Suwannapura caught fire.
Despite playing in pain – the 23-year-old Thai star has been experiencing shooting pain from her glutes down to the right leg since the middle of the year – Suwannapura finished with a seven-under par 65 to move to 10-under par 206.
France’s Jade Schaeffer was in solo third place following a 70 at six-under par, while Germany’s Caroline Masson (67) and England’s Melissa Reid (70) were tied fourth at five-under par 211.
The 26-year-old Feng had surged to six-under par for the day with six birdies in 11 holes, before making the first bogey of the tournament on the 48th hole with a tee shot that she pulled to the left waste area on the 12th. She quickly followed it up with another bogey on the 14th.
“I played really well on the front nine. Made a couple bogeys on the back, but I birdied the 17th to come back. I think five-under is still a pretty good score because the day was a little bit more windy,” said the Chinese star.
“I think the back nine, maybe I misjudged the wind a couple of times. And then there was one poor drive on the 12th hole, so I made a bogey there.
“I’m not really thinking about any score tomorrow. On the course, every time I’m just focusing shot by shot. Tomorrow, I’m just going to do the same thing as the past three days.”
Suwannapura’s round went the other way of Feng’s. She started with a bogey and was just one-under par after 12 holes when she started her birdie run. Except for the 17th, where she two-putted for a birdie and the 18th, where she was left with a five-feet birdie putt, her other birdies were all result of putts from 15-20 feet range.
“I don’t know what happened. Today, I just see the line and my caddie, Matt, he can see the same thing as me. I was like ‘just knock it’, and it’s in,” said Suwannapura.
“I was really not expecting anything. I was just hitting balls and try to knock it on the green. Just par was fine for me.
“Can I catch Shanshan? No, I don’t think so. I know she’s pretty good and she hits it a hundred percent. I’m just going to have fun tomorrow and try to finish my round again.”
British 52-year-old legend Laura Davies, who was second behind Feng at the halfway stage with two successive rounds of 68, faded away with a 77.