Lee-Anne Pace from South Africa will square off against joint overnight leader Celine Herbin of France in the final round of the Spanish Open after both players held on to pole position in Saturday’s third round.
For a third successive day, Pace revelled in the scorching temperatures at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid and rode a sizzling putter to a flawless four under 68, however Herbin matched her score after reeling in five birdies, offset by a lone bogey late in her round.
Tied at 12-under-par 204, the co-leaders are two shots clear of Norway’s Mikaela Parmlid, who launched to third with a bogey-free 66 and three ahead of Dutch player, Johanna Klaten, who shot into contention with a 67.
“It’s been a great tournament so far, especially tee to green,” said Pace, who set up the chance to claim her second title this season in the second round 69 to join Herbin for the lead.
“It’s a really tough course, but that’s the kind of course I enjoy. I hit 17 greens in regulation in the first round, 15 in the second and 16 in the third, so I think it’s fair to say that I’m enjoying this course.
“The putter has been behaving, as well. I had some missed opportunities, but they were all close calls that could have gone the other way. The key is to move on from those and keep your head in the game.”
Pace was ranked fifth on the Ladies European Tour (LET) with three events to go last year when she had her 2012 season cut short by an arm injury and subsequent surgery.
It took the Mossel Bay pro a few months to get back to the competitive form that saw her win LET Money List in 2010, but in April, the 32-year-old came into form during the SA Womens Open and she claimed her sixth Ladies European Tour (LET) title at the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open a month later.
She further cemented her current second place ranking with a runner-up finish at the Slovak Open last month.
“I think the break was a blessing in disguise, because it gave me some perspective and the chance to evaluate and to re-focus on the things that matter,” she said.
Pace said that although Herbin is a long hitter and more plays a more aggressive game, she will stick to her own devices.
“I’ve been in this position before. I’ll draw on past experience and stick to my own game plan. The one thing I can’t control is what Celine does. I’m looking forward to going head-to-head with Celine on Sunday. I think it will be a close challenge.”
Herbin has lived in Satander for the last six years and is coached by Seve Ballesteros’ brother, Vincente, who has also been her secret weapon on though layout.
“Vincente knows the course very well, so he has been a great help around this layout,” said Frenchwomen, who has been equally solid tee to green.
“I’m happy with my game. I’ve been pretty steady – one bogey on Friday, one on Saturday. I didn’t miss too many shots and I’m enjoying the challenge with Lee-Anne.”
South Africa’s Ashleigh Simon, back from a six-week stint on the LPGA’s Symetra Tour in the USA, rose to joint 11th on four-under-par 212 after a second successive 71, while compatriot Tandi Cuningham slipped to a tie for 38th at even-par 216 after a third round 74.
Top 10 on the LET Leaderboard after Round 3 at the Open de Espana, Club de Campo Villa in Madrid, Spain, on Saturday, 20 July, 2013: 1 Celine Herbin -12 68 68 68 204 1 Lee-Anne Pace -12 67 69 68 204 3 Mikaela Parmlid -10 69 71 66 206 4 Joanna Klatten -9 69 71 67 207 5 Isabella Ramsay -7 69 69 71 209 6 Gwladys Nocera -6 69 72 69 210 6 Beth Allen -6 69 72 69 210 8 Carlota Ciganda -5 74 71 66 211 8 Nontaya Srisawang -5 73 69 69 211 8 Melissa Reid -5 70 69 72 211
(With editing by gsport)