Ladies European Tour
Feb 18th, 2023
Ashok holds halfway lead at Saudi Ladies International
Indian star continues her great start to the year
Photography: Tristan Jones/LET
The Indian star backed up an excellent first day of 65 (-7) with the joint-best round of the day on Friday to post a total of thirteen-under-par and hold a two-shot lead at Royal Greens.
It was a phenomenal front nine for Ashok, who teed off from hole 10, as she rolled in birdies on 10, 11, 13, 14 and 16 before holing out for an eagle on 18.
“Whenever I stepped to the ball, I just knew the ball was going in,” said Ashok. “It was just one of those days where everything works in your favour. The front nine was definitely like that.
“On 18, I was just trying to aim a little left because the wind was off the left for that birdie shot. I struggled a bit on my short game in general the past three weeks, but I think my bunker shots have been the best part so far of my short game.
“I was kind of happy that I hit it two on, but I missed, and I had a bunker shot. That was kind of the play for me. It was just a perfect shot and one of those days where the ball wants to get in the hole.”
Despite having a tougher back nine, as the wind picked up, the 24-year-old finished with a flourish rolling in a birdie on hole nine.
The 2023 Race to Costa del Sol leader added: “I hope I just keep giving myself the birdie putts I've been giving the past two days. More birdie chances and more birdie putts, that favours my style of golf. Hitting fairways and greens keeps the big numbers out of play and keeps the mistakes off the card, so just trying to do more of that.”
New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and America’s Lilia Vu sit in a tie for second place on 11-under-par after rounds of 69 and 66, respectively.
World number one Ko began her day with a birdie on the first before dropping a shot on the third, but she made up for it with birdies on the fourth and ninth holes.
On the back nine when the wind picked up, the New Zealander made three birdies and two bogeys for her round of three-under.
“I normally have a pretty wide stance for I think the width of my shoulders, but it was just getting wider and wider,” said Ko. “I still couldn't keep my putter stable enough.
“On 16, I ended up making the putt, but hit it so far off the middle of the club face there is probably no like control in that area. It's just one of those days that you know it's going to be tough. It's tough for everyone.
“Luckily for us, we were one of the early few groups in the afternoon, so we had to bear with this wind a little shorter than maybe some of the other players. It's something that was forecasted. I knew it was going to be difficult, but all in all, I thought I played pretty solid in the stretch where it did get pretty windy.”
While Vu had an error-free second round with birdies on holes one, four, five, nine, ten and 18 to also be on 11-under-par at the midway mark.
The American said: “I think the wind helped because it helps you play one shot at a time. The wind was a little different from yesterday, so we had to adjust to that, but just playing one shot at a time is the key.”
Another player who produced a 66 on the second day was Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela, who sits in fourth place on ten-under-par.
"It's been really fun,” said the LET rookie. “My game was solid and today was definitely challenging in the back nine with the wind, but I just stayed very present. I'm just having a lot of fun; grinded out there.
“I think I just enjoyed lowering my expectations a little bit and just trying my best in the conditions. The ball is just not going to get right bounces and it's going to be tougher out there for everyone, but it reminds me a little bit of home in the Bahamas.
“I practice a little bit in crazy weather sometimes. I’m very happy with my round and I’m definitely proud of how I fought today.”
Mexico’s Gaby Lopez and Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen sit in a share of fifth place on nine-under-par with Sweden’s Johanna Gustavsson and England’s Cara Gainer one shot further back in tied seventh.
Four players are in a tie for ninth place heading into the weekend with Sweden’s Lisa Pettersson, Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul, Korea’s Hyo-Joo Kim and Belgium’s Manon De Roey all on seven-under-par.
The cut fell at one-over-par with 63 players making it through to the final two rounds of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International.