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Nocera races into third round lead
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Gwladys Nocera during the third round at Golf de l'Ocean

Gwladys Nocera will take a two stroke lead into the final round of the Lalla Meryem Cup after firing a six-under-par 65 in warm and sunny conditions at Golf de l’Ocean in Adadir on Saturday.

The 38-year-old Frenchwoman ended two clear of French compatriot Sophie Giquel-Bettan, with halfway leader Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand two strokes further back.

Nocera made a relatively slow start with two birdies and one bogey on the front nine, but she picked up the pace with five birdies on the back nine at holes 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 to reach 11-under-par after three rounds.

“Today was not so good on the front nine. I struggled a little bit but I don’t know, I played two rounds with bad putting and managed to shoot a good score so I just thought, ‘keep going, they will drop,’ and I made a few more on the back nine,” Nocera said.

Giquel-Bettan, the Portugal Open champion in 2007, is in the hunt for her first LET title in seven years after a third-round 67 which included seven birdies and three bogeys.

She said: “I’m very happy. I think I played really well today. I was minus three after five holes, putting good and hitting the ball good. I missed two shots from the tee, so two bogeys and back to minus one. I was kind of frustrated because the players I was playing with were playing well also. I felt I had to make some birdies and I hit some good shots after but couldn’t make any. I tried to relax and make good putts and roll the ball well and I finished with three birdies.”

The defending champion Jutanugarn, who took eight months out last year through injury, struggled with her irons and slipped down into third place after a one-over-par 72, but is still in contention just four strokes from the lead.  

She said: “Today I played not very good. My driver was okay but my irons were so bad and I had some long putts and my putting didn’t help.”

It’s a tightly jammed leader board with four players only five shots from the lead on six-under-par. They are Thailand’s Titiya Plucksataporn, English duo Holly Clyburn and Charley Hull and French amateur Mathilda Cappeliez, who is aged 15 and two weeks older than  Lydia Ko when she won the 2013 ISPS HANDA New Zealand Women’s Open to become the youngest ever winner on the LET.

Hull, who held a one stroke lead going into the final round of the Lalla Meryem Cup 12 months ago, is chasing her first title while Clyburn is targeting her second win on the LET after the Deloitte Ladies Open last year.

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