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Simons settles into second spot at European Masters
- Updated: July 3, 2015
South Africa’s Ashleigh Simon is handily placed in a three-way tie for second place after an opening five-under-par 67 and is just one stroke shy of Frenchwoman Sophie Giquel-Bettan in ISPS Handa Ladies European Masters at Buckinghamshire Golf Club on Thursday.
Simon claimed a joint runner-up finish behind seven-time Major champion Karie Webb in this championship in 2013 and was thrilled to pick up where she left off.
‘Well, it isn’t close to the 63 I shot in the first round two years ago, but it’s certainly a lot better than I have played in the last few months,’ Simon said.
‘I’m really pleased with this result. I’ve worked hard on my short game in the last two months and it is so great get the putter working nicely with the rest of my game.’
Simon racked up four birdies and an eagle at the par-five 14th and her only bad shot of the day – a wayward drive at the par-four third – resulted in the lone bogey on her card.
‘With the exception of a bad tee shot at three, I drove the ball beautifully all day,’ said Simon. ‘I had a good start with birdie at 12, but the eagle really kicked up the momentum and it was good to finish with back-to-back birdies.
‘I left a few out there, but I was able to knock some in to put myself in a good position.’
Simon is a two-time Ladies European Tour winner but it has been four years since she won the Portugal Ladies Masters. Based in the United States where she competes on the LPGA Tour, Simon has had a frustrating season and her short game has been her downfall.
She spent some time with her coach Doug Wood at the Wanna Be A Champion Academy during a short break home over her 26th birthday in May. They worked on her wedge play and she started seeing some progress, but she continued to struggling on the greens.
‘We had a week off and I worked for hours with the Trackman and it paid off in the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship last week,’ the four-time Sunshine Tour winner said.
‘I had a bogey-free first round for the first time in ages and a really solid second round. Unfortunately the putter just went cold again on Sunday, but Doug came to London to see Nicole Garcia and myself and we did some more work before the first round.
‘I felt a lot more confident and comfortable on the greens, but I am keeping my expectations low. I just want to enjoy this start and keep building on this.’
Compatriot Stacy Bregman took a seat on the 15-strong bus at two under, while Melissa Eaton and Bonita Bredenhann from Namibia returned 74s.
Evergreen Laurette Maritz opened with a 75, LET winner Connie Chen carded a 76 and Garcia and fellow Sunshine Tour winner Monique Smit registered a pair of 78s.
Picture: Catherine Kotze/SASPA