Ladies European Tour, 02 June 2018: Finland’s Ursula Wikstrom fired opening rounds of 69 and 67 for a six-under-par total to take a two-stroke lead into the final round of the Jabra Ladies Open in France. Vani Kapoor made scores of 74 and 75, missing the cut by five strokes at the end of the second round. Sharmila Nicollet ended her week early too, two shots adrift of Vani.
Starting the day at thee over, Vani had work to do in order to survive the cut. The young woman from Delhi showed plenty of pluck as she battled hard through an eventful day. She made three birdies on the forward nine, but also endured four bogeys.
Any hopes of a fightback were laid to rest when Vani conceded three straight bogeys on the other side of the bend. Eventually her scorecard contained eight bogeys to four birdies, slipping out of the tournament with a 36 hole score of 7-over 149.
Sharmila Nicollet also missed the cut, with scores of 75 and 76. The Bengaluru golfer made five bogeys and a double at the par-3 fifth hole.
The 37-year-old Smith, who has recorded multiple-runner up finishes since joining the LET in 2004, is now in a prime position to capitalise and earn her first Ladies European Tour title at the Evian Resort Golf Club, along with one of the two spots available in The Evian Championship.
Reflecting on her second round, she said: “It was solid, but I only made birdies on the par fives. I didn’t make any mistakes either, so it was pretty easy. It was just tick, tick, tick and keep going. Just to play in a Major, with the best players, would be great.”
The timing couldn’t be better, as she will defend the EVLI Finnish Open, which her husband, Mika, is running on the LET Access Series next week.
Of her five runner-up finishes over the last decade, the most recent came in the 2015 Deloitte Ladies Open, although she posted a tie for sixth in this year’s Investec SA Women’s Open and her hard work may be about to pay off.
Wikstrom’s closest challengers, however, include multiple LET winners Felicity Johnson from England and Marianne Skarpnord from Norway and rising British star Annabel Dimmock.
Johnson, whose wins include the 2009 Tenerife Ladies Open and the 2011 Lacoste Ladies Open de France, hasn’t played in The Evian Championship on the remodelled golf course. However, she did play in the Evian Masters in 2010 and 2012.
“Last time I was here I met Hugh Grant, which was memorable! If you’ve watched him in the films, that’s how he seemed in real life and I’m a big fan, even if he is a Fulham fan. I don’t like them after last weekend,” said the fervent Aston Villa supporter.
“I played in the football match here last time, so it would be good to be a part of that in September. I went on the pitch and kicked the ball a couple of times. I’ve got the kit at home still. Zidane was there and David Ginola as well. I was a big fan of seeing him, as he used to play for Villa, so I had a little chat with him about his time at Villa and it’s always exciting to meet some footballers.”
Skarpnord, whose LET titles include the 2009 Swiss and Italian Opens and the 2013 South African Women’s Open, has played at Evian three times, but not since the inaugural Evian Championship in 2013.
She feels that some early morning practice is required ahead of the final round on Saturday and said: “There was a lot of good and bad. It was an up and down day, either really good or really bad. I hit a lot of good shots and had a few two or three metre putts for birdie that I made. Just an example, on number four, I hit a shot onto the next hole’s tee. I putted pretty well and managed to make the birdie chances that I had.”
A stroke further back are Germany’s Karolin Lampert, Christine Wolf from Austria and Frenchwoman Astrid Vayson de Pradenne on three-under-par, ahead of Finn Noora Tamminen, South African Nicole Garcia and Scotland’s Jane Turner. Sweden’s Sofia Ljungvist, England’s Cloe Frankish and Spain’s Elia Folch are on one-under-par and all looking for a debut in The Evian Championship in September.