Nov 5th, 2022
Lee on fire at the International Series Morocco
Canadian holds two shot lead heading into the weekend
Photography: Asian Tour
Thailand’s Nitithorn Thippong returned a 72 and is in second place two back, while Australian Scott Hend and Spaniard David Puig are a stroke further behind after carding 69 and 70, respectively.
Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond (70) and Rattanon Wannasrichan (71), Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent (71) and Englishman Steve Lewton (73) are another stroke adrift.
Local hero Ayoub Lguirati is still in the mix for the weekend after returning a level par 73 for a one-over aggregate score.
Lee eagled the par-five fifth, made three birdies in a row from the 10th, birdied 18 and missed numerous chances, including nearly holing out for an eagle on the sixth, to go even lower.
“I think definitely the fifth hole when I made the eagle that kind of made me pumped up a little bit,” said Lee.
“You just need to hit the fairways out there and that’s key on this course. I didn’t really like hit my drivers high, I tried to hit my low Stinger drivers just to make the fairways and from there it’s easy.”
He spent four days in Dubai before this week to acclimatize and adjust to the time zone and it has clearly paid dividends.
He said: “Oh, definitely. I mean, I know a few people that just came in from Korea and from the US as well, and definitely the jetlag is hitting them pretty hard. Yeah, I went to Dubai for three, four days, just practiced with a few friends of mine at the Emirates Club and the Els Club. Yeah, it was good practice.”
The 32-year-old is a two-time winner on the Asian Tour but has not tasted victory since claiming the Shinhan Donghae Open in 2017. But the signs have been there this year that his A game is coming back, particularly when he finished joint second in the International Series Singapore in August.
Nitithorn, whose nickname is “Fever”, has already won twice this year and is clearly hot for more success although he wasn’t satisfied with his performance today.
“I had a frustrating day,” he said, who started the day in a share of the lead with Lewton.
“I started not so good with a bogey on the eighth, my first hole. I don’t know, I didn’t play so good today but made a lot of up and downs. But I missed a lot of birdie opportunities also.
“I’m still happy with the result today, I mean I was really focused on my game.”
The 26-year-old won The DGC Open presented by Mastercard in March for his maiden success on the Asian Tour and in August triumphed in the International Series Singapore. He sits in third position on the Tour’s Order of Merit.
Like all the competitors this week he is treating the Red Course with a lot of respect.
He said: “Oh, for me it’s a little tough. It’s got a lot of bunkers on the side of the fairway, and you have to drive it really straight in the fairway. You’ve got to keep the ball in the fairway to make the next shot easy, because the rough is really thick and it’s like a sponge. I don’t really know how to hit it from the rough.”
He made three birdies and two bogeys to help put him in strong position heading into the weekend.
Vincent is first on the International Series Order of Merit and fifth on the Merit list, having won the International Series England in June, and will no doubt be a threat at the weekend.
“It has been a good two days, I did a lot of things very well,” he said.
“Just trying to stay present and engage each and every shot. I had a really good group to play with today. Kiradech (Aphibarnrat) is someone I have looked up to for a very long time. That was a lot of fun and we really enjoyed ourselves out there.
“Weekend approach is the same, same approach, same as what we have been doing, I am just out here each week to get a little bit better. Learn and grow is what we call it. That’s the goal.”
Lguirati had an eventful round, posting five birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey.
He credited his pre-event preparation as the reason behind his strong showing, saying: “I started the game well today with one goal in mind, the second round. The good preparation work carried out with the whole team has given its results, despite the difficult playing conditions today.
"I was able to make a lot of birdies which allowed me to play under par, despite a few mistakes, which I will try to avoid making again during the rest of the competition.
"There are two days of competition left, I remain confident for the future, especially on such a technical course."