x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Feng fires on all cylinders to take lead in Dubai Ladies Masters

Lexi Thompson lurks after a blemish-free 68 puts her in contention for the weekend

Shanshan Feng from China during the second round of Dubai Ladies Masters.
Shanshan Feng from China during the second round of Dubai Ladies Masters.

DUBAI // Shanshan Feng is proving as immovable off the Majlis Course as she is from the top of the leaderboard on it.

A second-round 65 yesterday provided the world No 6 with a commanding four-shot lead at the halfway mark of the Ladies European Tour (LET) finale, not to mention her most prolific 18 holes of an already standout season.

Such rewards should bring with them a renewed sense of optimism, but for Feng, a major champion as recently as June, a pre-tournament target remains.

"My goal is still top five," she said. "Playing really well during the first two days, of course it's easier to make that, but I don't always think about winning. If I win I win, if I don't it's OK."

Feng began the day sharing the summit with Florentyna Parker, only for the Englishwoman's earlier insistence she loved the course to come back to bite. A disappointing two-over par pushed Parker into a tie for 14th.

Playing alongside her, Feng had no such trouble. Birdies were delivered at five holes through a flawless front nine, while a bogey coming home represented only a temporary blot as it found itself among three further birdies.

"My putting was really good," she said. "When my putting is on it's great, but when it's not it's a struggle. My lowest score this year was only six-under, so [on Wednesday] I was trying really hard to break it. Today I did it - I just hope I keep playing like this."

Feng feels should the wind pick up again today then the course will play "at least twice as hard". The blustery conditions did not affect Felicity Johnson too much yesterday afternoon, though, the two-time LET winner posting a fine 67 to take outright second on nine-under par.

"The last four or five months, I've worked hard on my short game and especially on my putting," she said. "I've hit the ball pretty good all year, but haven't converted as many chances as I'd like.

"I was just aiming too far left. It's not ideal when you're a couple feet away and not aiming at the hole."

Caroline Masson, the only rival to Carlota Ciganda in the race for the Order of Merit, heads a four-strong group in tied-third, however it is the figure lurking one shot further back that commands considerable attention.

Lexi Thompson, the defending champion, carded a bogey-free 68 in what she labelled the windiest conditions she has experienced in Dubai. However, the big-hitting American is looking forward to an explosive finish during the final two days. "I'm six back right now, but on the weekend you can make a big move," Thompson, 17, said. "You can make a lot of birdies out here so hopefully I've saved them for the weekend. We'll see where I am after tomorrow."

Ciganda is tied-eighth on six-under par.

jmcauley@thenational.ae