Ladies European Tour
Feb 19th, 2023
Lilia Vu leads Saudi Ladies International
American takes a one shot lead into the final round at Royal Greens
Photography: Tristan Jones/LET
The 25-year-old fired a round of seven-under-par on day three at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club to climb to the top of the leaderboard.
It was a good start to the day for Vu, who rolled in a birdie on the first, however, she soon dropped her only shot of the day on the second hole.
Back-to-back birdies on holes three, four and five put the American back in control and she rolled in further birdies on nine and 14.
Vu ended her round in style with a long eagle putt on the 18th to seal a 65 and move to the top of the leaderboard on 18-under-par.
“It was really fun,” she said. “I had a really long putt from the front of the green with a back left pin. It was about 24 paces and I just hit and hope on that one.
“I find I play my best when I’m having fun, so I’m just going to try and do that tomorrow. I had a lot of fun playing with Lydia [Ko] today. When you play with good players you tend to play better, and she just hits the ball so well.
“I was actually a little nervous coming here because it’s the start of my season and the first tournament of the year for me. I felt kind of rusty coming through and then once I started to trust myself, the game just got better on its own.”
World number one Lydia Ko sits in second place on the leaderboard on 17-under-par having shot a round of 66 (-6) on day three.
It was an error-free day for the New Zealander, who rolled in birdies on holes five, seven, eight, nine, ten and 17.
“I actually hit the ball really well my first few holes,” said Ko, who won the Aramco Saudi Ladies International in 2021.
“I set myself for a lot of birdie opportunities within 15 feet, and it was as if I was putting a good stroke and the hole wasn't there.
“To see my birdie putt go in on five was definitely a big sigh of relief just because you know you're playing well, and you're trying to stay patient, but your playing opponents are making a lot of birdies, so you're trying to be on that same momentum.
“I was able to stay really patient and I made a string of birdies around the turn. I don't think my long game was as good in the back nine, but I was still able to scramble my way around. It was a good birdie on 17 to end the day.”
Two players share third place with Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen and India’s Aditi Ashok both on 16-under-par.
Pedersen, who won the inaugural edition of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International in 2020, produced a bogey-free 65 with five birdies and an eagle on 18 on her scorecard.
“I like 18! I think it’s a great hole, probably the best hole on the golf course. Obviously, I have a lot of good memories from there,” said the 2020 Race to Costa del Sol champion.
“It’s always an advantage to hit it further. If you can hit is straight, it always give you a little bit more control into the greens especially downwind like 18 is. The fact I’m hitting a 6-iron means I can still put spin on it and get it to stop pitching on the greens, so that’s an advantage.
“Tomorrow will just be one shot at a time, trying to just keep myself in it and putting up a lot of good chances. There has been low scoring every day, so I know I’ll need a low one tomorrow and I’ll try and do that.”
While it was another solid day for Ashok, after she carded a 69 (-3) which included five birdies and two bogeys.
The 2023 Race to Costa del Sol leader said: “I think I hit it good today, I created a lot of birdie chances, I just didn’t hole as many putts as the first two days, but I’m still happy with my game. Hopefully, I can hit it as good tomorrow but hole more putts.”
World number seven Lexi Thompson sits in outright fifth place on 13-under-par having fired a round of 63 (-9), which equalled the course record.
It was a flawless day for the American superstar who rolled in five birdies on her front nine and four birdies on her back nine.
“It was beautiful conditions out there,” said Thompson. “We couldn’t have asked for anything better. The sun was out and there was very little wind. Overall, it was just a very steady day. I just tried to build off yesterday’s round. I hit a lot of good shots and just tried to take that positive energy into today.”
Five players are in a share of sixth place with English duo Charley Hull and Georgia Hall, Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul and Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela all on 11-under-par.
Another five players sit one shot further back in a tie for 11th place on 10-under-par including Germany’s Chiara Noja, who won the Individual title at the Aramco Team Series – Jeddah a few months ago.