Norway’s Marianne Skarpnord vaulted up to pole position on the leader board at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco on Friday with a second round of six under par 65.
The 26-year-old from Sarpsborg, who won twice on the Ladies European Tour in 2009, moved to seven under par at Golf de l’Ocean in Agadir after strong winds and the threat of lightning delayed the start of play by five hours.
Skarpnord wasted little time after starting from the first tee at 1.50pm. She picked up five birdies and dropped just one shot on the front nine, before adding three more birdies and just one blemish on the back.
A solid birdie on the par-three 16th gave her a one stroke advantage over first round co-leader Jade Schaeffer, who was happy to be in the clubhouse with a two under par round of 69 just before play ended for the day due to darkness at 6.44pm.
Skarpnord took four months out from the game last year with a back injury and has since struggled to find the form that saw her finish fourth on the 2009 LET money list.
Despite striking the ball well, the putts haven’t been dropping - until now. Conveniently, her boyfriend, European Tour player Richard Green, who is competing in the Hassan Trophy a mile along the road at Golf du Palais this week, was on hand to offer a putting lesson after the first round.
“Greenie was here last night and helped me a bit. I was a bit frustrated,” Skarpnord said. “He helped me a bit and he’s got a theory on what he feels works and I’m trying that out and hopefully it will work at the end of the day.”
Another contributing factor could be that her caddie, Brian Shezi, is reading the lines on the greens and Skarpnord added: “To be honest I’ve been hitting the ball awesome for a few months now, I just haven’t made any putts. I’ve really been struggling with the putting so the game from tee to green has been there for a long time, it’s just I haven’t made anything and it’s really destroyed everything. When you putt bad for so long it just affects your game.”
French 25-year-old Schaeffer, who claimed her second LET title at the Prague Golf Masters in September, felt that she was in the ideal position on the leader board.
“Now maybe I prefer my situation because I’m just one shot behind Marianne Skarpnord and I attack now: I hope!” she said. “I have a good feeling with this course and with my game and I try always to win, but we’ll see.”
Conditions changed completely from morning to afternoon as the winds died down and temperatures dropped but it was still an exhausting day for the early starters who had been at the course since 7am.
Spanish rookie Carlota Ciganda and Sweden’s Linda Wessberg were both in the clubhouse having ended on four under, while Frenchwoman Valentine Derrey and Ireland’s Rebecca Codd both finished on three under par.
Wessberg made a number of impressive recovery shots from impossible positions during her round – notably a five-iron approach shot from behind a bush to one feet on the 392-yard par-four 14th. “It was very much up and down today but I’m very happy,” she said. “I had a double on the sixth and made five birdies coming in.”
Codd was also happy to be in with the chance of a later start on Saturday after enduring a day of weather extremes.
“It was relatively calm in comparison to this morning,” she explained. “The most wind we had was probably one club and a half. It kept dropping to nothing and then it would gust up again.
“I got cold with four holes to play. If I had a jacket I would have put it on. When we started it was so hot. It’s been a really long day so I need some food now I think!”
She admitted to struggling a little with her short game but was happy with a round of level par 71.
“I feel good, I like the course and I’m hitting the ball pretty good so sharpen up a bit on the short game and we’ll see what happens,” she said.
England’s Eleanor Givens was enjoying a stellar start to her professional career in a share of second place on six under par along with French first-round co-leader Julie Maisongrosse with three holes of her second round to play. Givens, who graduated from Tour School in January, had five birdies and no dropped shots on Friday, setting up an intriguing prospect for the weekend.
The second round will resume at 7.30am on Saturday following which there will be a halfway cut to the leading 60 professionals and those tied for 60th place.