Spanish pair Carlota Ciganda and Mireira Prat (pictured) shared the first round lead with Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters after a trio of five-under-par 67s at Emirates Golf Club on Wednesday as defending champion Shanshan Feng suffered a disappointing opening round.
Fresh from winning the LPGA Titleholders championship, World number four Feng mixed five bogeys with one birdie her four-over 76.
Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand was solo fourth, just one stroke behind the leaders, with Germany’s Solheim Cup star Caroline Masson alone in fifth on three-under-par.
World number three Stacy Lewis of the US, who is making her first appearance in Dubai, kept herself in the frame as one of seven players in a share of sixth on two-under 70 along with English pair Charley Hull and Laura Davies.
Hull was riding high at four-under-par with a hole to play, but four-putted on the 18th green. Darkness called an early halt to the first round on a day when early fog led to a 30-minute delay to the start of the play.
Prat, 24, from Barcelona, won the LET Access Series Order of Merit last week earning her full card for the 2014 LET and feels relaxed, as though her first visit to Dubai is a prize.
The second year LET member had five birdies and said: “I putted really well. I think I missed three shots and I recovered very well to make par so I’m very happy.
“I know I have my full card for next year and it was my goal for this year, so I think there is no pressure here and maybe that’s the key. I was very confident at the start and played very well and was relaxed. It’s the first day of a four day tournament so I’m going to keep focused and do things like I did today and we’ll see what happens.”
Rated as one of the favourites, Lewis drove the ball well, but felt whatever she did right was derailed once she got on the greens. “It was a bit frustrating out there. I hit the ball well, but just couldn’t make any putts. I think the longest putt I made was six or seven feet. My speed was a little off on the greens.
“I feel like the course is playing hard enough that no-one’s going to run away and shoot a great score. The greens are firm and fast and you’ve got to play smart. I feel like I’m still in it. We’ve got three more days and if I can make some putts I’ll be there.”
Two groups, containing six players, will finish their first rounds at 7.10am on Thursday morning while tee times for the second round are unchanged.
First round leader interviews:
I played really good today and I’m very happy with my round. I started with a bogey on the first and hit my ball into the rough. It’s really tough and you need to hit fairways and greens on this course. I feel very comfortable and I think this is my fifth year playing this tournament. I really enjoy Dubai, this course, the atmosphere, so hopefully I can play well tomorrow and be at the top over the weekend.
How much does it help knowing the course?
It really helps. You know the greens, you know the holes, where the fairway bounces and where you have to hit your second shots, so I think it really does help to know the course.
I’m pretty happy with my year. I’ve been playing in lots of tournaments so I need a little break after this and start again in February.
I went out today with low expectations but I was two under par through three so that was a great start. I actually didn’t touch a golf club last week because I’ve had such a long week but I wanted to come here to Dubai because it’s such a good tournament. I needed a rest coming into here and didn’t know what to expect from my game but it’s been steady all fall so it’s nice to keep going with some good golf out there.
You did well on the greens.
Yes, really well. I just saw the lines good and had good speed and gave myself lots of short birdie chances and took advantage of them.
Is there any difference between morning and afternoon play?
I did play in the Pro-Am and I played in the morning so I’ve been out in the morning two days in a row and if anything it’s an advantage to go out in the morning because the greens are going to be as pure as they can. It seems from earlier years in Dubai that the wind will pick up a little bit more in the afternoon. It’s nice to post a good round in the morning.
The greens are running quick aren’t they.
They are running really quick but I like it. They are so pure that if you start it on line you know it’s going to stay on that line.
It’s been a long year for me, but Dubai is one of my favourite stops all year so I couldn’t miss it. I took last week off but practiced hard for a couple of days leading up to the tournament and went out today and posted a good score.
Has that raised your expectations?
Hopefully not. I try to go out there with low expectations because in golf it’s hard to follow up a low round. I think it’s better if you can go out and don’t even think about the day before.
What are your thoughts on the greens?
I feel really confident on these greens and I really like the greens here. They roll really good every year and I seem to see the lines and roll them good. My confidence, especially on the greens, is really high.
Five-under: what a start!
I played very well today and had no bogeys, five birdies and I putted really well. I think I missed three shots and I recovered very well to make par so I’m very happy.
You won the Access Series last week. Does that give you confidence coming into this week?
I don’t know if it’s the key, but I know I have my full card for next year and it was my goal for this year, so I think there is no pressure here and maybe that’s the key. I was very confident at the start and played very well and was relaxed.
It’s important to stay relaxed, isn’t it?
It’s the first day of a four day tournament so I’m going to keep focused and do things like I did today and we’ll see what happens. I’ll stick to my game.
Yesterday you spent riding a camel and hitting shots in the desert. Did that have any influence?
Maybe, I don’t know. Maybe it gave me luck for today and I enjoyed it. It was a good experience and thank you very much for taking us to the desert yesterday.
How did you make the five birdies?
On the third it was a par five and I hit my second shot into the bunker and I hit it out to one and a half metres from the pin and made it. On the ninth hole I made another birdie and it was about three metres. On 11, I hit a good tee shot and it was a two metre putt. On 16 I holed a four metre putt. 17 I hit a 9-iron stone dead.
What do you make of your first round?
It was a bit frustrating today. I hit the ball well and just didn’t make any putts. I think the longest putt I made was six or seven feet. The speed was a little off on the greens but I hit the ball really well.
Regarding the score, there’s no great loss looking ahead?
I feel like the course is playing hard enough that no-one’s going to run away and shoot a great score. The greens are firm and fast and you’ve got to play smart. I feel like I’m still in it. We’ve got three more days and if I can make some putts I’ll be there.
Why are the girls finding it so hard out there?
I think the greens are just really firm. They are firm and fast and some putts that you don’t think will be so fast sneak up and get you. It’s more that into the greens you’ve got to allow for some release and when you’ve got to do that it’s hard to get the ball close.
Are you surprised by Shanshan Feng at four-over?
A bit, yeah. I couldn’t really tell how she was doing out there but coming off a win and she won here last year, but she could shoot a low round tomorrow and be right back in it.
Is it difficult to keep your patience if the putts aren’t dropping?
Yeah. It was very frustrating. I think I hit 16 greens today and only really had to chip once so it was definitely frustrating and I had one three-putt where I got a little impatient. Overall I hit some good putts that didn’t go in.
The rest of your game is good then.
There are some tough driving holes and I feel like I hit some really good drives. The approach shots are good, hopefully I can a few a little closer.
Do you get more familiar with the course and you feel will be better?
I feel like I know the course pretty well. I have my caddie find hole locations for tomorrow just so we know more about being below the hole, getting some putts we can be aggressive with. If you’re playing above the hole, you’re being defensive. Just trying to leave it on the better side of the hole is what we’re trying to do.
Was it strange waking up in the fog?
It was. It was pretty early and it was dark out and the fog was definitely a little strange. We got some extra practice and got going.
What will you do for the rest of the day?
I’ll probably practice a little bit and then we have some sight seeing planned. We are going to go at least to one of the malls and I’ve got to see this indoor ski resort, so we are going to do some sight seeing this afternoon. You’ll probably see me on the putting green because when the greens are fast the speed has got to be perfect to make some putts.
You had an eagle on the sixth.
That was quite handy. I’d had a birdie on three and then bogeyed five and then holed a nine-iron on six so it was perfect to get back after dropping a shot on five. I had bogey on nine but got a birdie back on ten and then just one more bogey on 13 and the rest was pretty solid.
Are you happy?
My last tournament was France ten weeks ago so it’s nice to be back. This is my first time playing the tournament and first time in Dubai and it’s pretty awesome. They are probably the quickest greens I’ve played on and one of the best courses I’ve played so can’t complain.
What are the challenges?
Just getting yourself in the right position on the green to give yourself a chance as there are a few tricky putts out there. You need a good position on the fairway to get a good shot on the green.
This is your rookie year.
Yes, my last event as a rookie.
What are your expectations?
I’ve worked hard with my coach the last few weeks to make some changes so they are paying off and hopefully I’ll finish off with a good week and get ready for next season.
Hopes for next year?
Just improve on this season and move up the order of merit.
The details of your birdies and bogeys:
I birdied two par fives from ten feet on both. The bogeys, I just missed greens and if you’re in the rough its quite punishing and hard to get your normal length.
I played really well, I hit it very good and hit it alright, apart from my four putt on the last and my three putt earlier on, but I’m pretty happy with the way I played.
Played on despite the fact the hooter went. Happy with your decision.
Definitely, because I hit it on the green anyway. To be honest you don’t want to come back to that putt in the morning because it’s quite fast. Hopefully tomorrow I can go low.
Describe your round.
Of course I didn’t have a good start and I missed a few putts. I had a few misreads and was struggling with the speed and I lost my confidence. The striking was not good either and nothing was really good, but I’m still okay.
Actually, something funny to tell you. I was planning to get up at 5.50 this morning and I was staying at the Jebel Ali and I was on the first floor and I had windows by the beach. This morning at 4.30 a stranger, a guy, knocked at my window and tried to break in. I woke up; I was scared and tried to wonder who that was. I didn’t know who that guy was and then I left again and he tried to open the window again. I called the reception and they said it was a guest that went to the wrong room. I was up early but I wouldn’t say that was an excuse. It was the first time that happened. I’ve still got three days to go so I’m sure I’ll sleep well tonight and it will come back.
Are you surprised you found it so difficult after last year?
Yesterday I played really well too. I just didn’t know why I struggled today and I didn’t have pressure. My condition wasn’t that good today. If I wake up and be fresh tomorrow I’ll be fine. I think today because my iron shots weren’t that good, it left me some long putts. The key last year for me was to knock them close to the holes and I had maybe three three-putts today, which I didn’t know why. My putting got a little better nearer the end of the round.
I still played well yesterday so I’m just thinking that I didn’t sleep enough so I’m feeling a little tired, plus the jet lag, but not an excuse. I’m just saying. I think that’s part of it. I don’t think that’s an excuse.
How many hours sleep?
Maybe six hours. I was planning to go shopping tonight but now maybe not because I’m feeling very tired. I’m just tired and practice when you’re tired is not smart.
You did well in the Challenge Match and Pro-Am. Does that mean anything?
I just felt like I wasn’t there. I didn’t know who was playing and my body couldn’t control everything and couldn’t concentrate. It’s golf and we’re human beings so we all have days when we’re not feeling very well so it’s fair to everybody.
Is it justified to say you can’t be a winner every week?
No. I did have a week off last week after I won, so although I was flying all over, I’ve got jet lag but I don’t think that would affect this week. The day is finished so hopefully I’ll have some good days over the weekend.
Tomorrow will you stick to your normal game plan?
I’ll stick to my normal game plan. I mean, that wasn’t myself out there. I just want to bring myself tomorrow.