Fassi and Karlsson top Dubai Moonlight Classic ahead of 11-strong chasing pack

Overnight leader Maria Fassi and Sweden’s Jessica Karlsson lead the Dubai Moonlight Classic presented by EGA going into the final round at Emirates Golf Club, with a chasing pack of 11 players within four shots of the leading duo and the coveted Dallah Trophy.

After posting a course-record equalling nine-under 63 on day one, Fassi registered three birdies and two bogeys, including a surprise dropped shot on the 17th, to card a 71 and finish at 10-under par.

“The course and pin placement were a little tougher than yesterday and I couldn’t get into a rhythm, mostly saving pars and not finding any real momentum,” said the Mexican, 23. “It was a fight out there, but it’s good to be under par today and be up there going into the final day, or night! The less I think about the final round as the final round, the better. I feel if I stick to my gameplan, keep playing my game, the course will give, and the birdies will come. I can only take care of myself, that’s all I can do. I have no control on what the other girls do. I have to go out there, play my best, and we’ll see what happens after 18 holes.”

Karlsson, who traded golf course for classroom to teach maths and science in her native Sweden last year, produced a second-round masterclass as she began her round with three birdies in the first four holes. After a bogey on the par five 5th, the 29-year-old added further birdies on holes 10 and 16 to card a four-under par 68.

It was a good second round for Karlsson

The Swede was unaware of her climb up the leaderboard until the last hole, when a Ladies European Tour photographer shared her lofty rise. “I played good golf today, I played solid,” said Karlsson. “The photographer told me on the last hole I was tied for top – good news. It was a little bit tough at the start of the year, I played some really poor golf. After a year and a half out, it was hard to readjust, but I had a lot of time with my mental coach who helped a lot. I’m going to go out and enjoy the final round. I have my brother on the bag, so it’s fun. This is my first-time playing night golf, I was here two years ago as first reserve but I didn’t get to play.”

South African Lee-Anne Pace, second overnight, heads the chasing pack one shot back. The South African had a chance to make it a three-way tie for the lead but missed a six-foot birdie putt on 18. Pace’s eventful 71 featured five birdies and four bogeys, including a lucky escape on 16 where an attempted chip from the trees hit the cart path and rebounded further into the undergrowth.

Ursula Wikstrom produced arguably the day’s best round, carding six birdies and an eagle to nullify two bogeys in a six-under par 66.  The Finn sits at seven under par in a large pack that includes Thai sisters Ariya (69) and Moriya (68) Jutanugarn, who are one behind Olivia Cowan (71) and Pajaree Anannarukarn (67) on eight under par.

Pace is one shot behind the leaders

Cowan, who shot a 60 in the Pro-Am and a seven-under 65 on day one, dug deep to card a one-under par 71 to stay two shots off the lead. “I have mixed feelings on the round to be honest, I didn’t play as well as the last couple of days and I had to grind it out, but I’m not that far behind so overall I’m OK. Anything is possible on this course. I know I can shoot low on this course, so I just have to go in with some confidence, and do my thing,” said the German.

Cowan’s compatriot Esther Henseleit also carded a six-under par round of 66, while fellow German Chiara Noja, the 15-year-old Dubai resident who turned pro on the eve of the tournament, shot a level-par 72 to stay one over par.

The field will tee off the final round with a 4pm shotgun start on Friday. Fans will be able to enjoy the action for free, with the family-friendly tournament village proving a big draw with homegrown street food courtesy of Truckers UAE, golf taster lessons, and activities including a kids’ play area and live music from local artists.

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