Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall made headlines at the OMEGA Dubai Moonlight Classic after a bogey-free round of 65 (-7), which included a hole-in-one, fired her into a two-shot first round lead from morning leader Laura Fuenfstueck and fellow Solheim Cup player, Celine Boutier.
Known for her up-and-down aggressive playing style, the six-time LET winner and four-time Solheim Cup star has showed on many occasions what her best golf looks like and she brought it to Dubai today under the floodlights.
Starting from the sixth hole, Hedwall opened up with ten straight pars to find her rhythm before igniting her challenge with a birdie on the par five 16th hole to get under-par for the day before producing a shot-of-the-day from 162 yards on the par three 17th.
Dialled in on the laser beam flagstick all the way, her towering 6-iron looked nowhere else and pitched straight in the hole for one of golf’s most unlikely shots.
“I heard how it hit the pin and then I thought it came off because something white flew off the flag stick. I thought my ball was in the bunker. I walked up and saw a ball in the bunker and remarked there it is but my Pro-Am partner said that it was his ball. So I walked up to the hole to double check and it was there. I realised just after the hole in one that I’d won a watch, which is cool.”
Courtesy of the ace, the 31-year-old walked away with an OMEGA Speedmaster 38, Co-Axial Chronograph 30MM.
Not content with her progress, Hedwall continued to take out flags immediately after, making birdie at the 18th (her 13th) before another three gains on Nos. 2, 3 and her closing hole, the par five 5th.
“I made quite a nice few par putts on the front nine, which gave me momentum with my putting. Eventually the longer ones fell in as well. It was a nice solid round of golf, I am really happy.
She continued, “Night golf is hard, particularly with my vision! I have to trust my caddy to see the ball for me. So it is tricky and hard to read the greens and be particularly careful seeing all the slopes and walk around the hole because it doesn’t come naturally when you stand behind it like you usually do.”
Trailing by two shots heading in to round two at five-under par is Germany’s Laura Fuenfstueck, who led for most of the day as the ‘daylight’ leader, and France’s Celine Boutier, who compiled a clean bogey-free round of 67 (-5). Coincidentally, both players started their round from the first hole and will swap places tomorrow for the ‘moonlight’ shift.
Fuenfstueck, who finished ninth on the 2019 Order of Merit, may still be in search of her first victory but the young German has posted as many as eight top-ten finishes in 32 career starts and she came in to the week having played every LET event this year, as well as the season finale on the LETAS.
“I came out to Dubai a bit early to practice on a few of the golf courses around here, there’s just so many nice ones so I just tried to prepare as well as I could. I’ve played as much golf as I could this year and although I still missed a few putts out there, I am really pleased with my day.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow and the prospect of her second round in the dark, Fuenfstueck added,
“Perhaps there will be less wind at night but the greens are easier to read in the sun because you can tell the grain a bit more but maybe I will find out what it will be like tomorrow.”
On point with her post round prediction, Fuenfstueck commented, “I think there is a low number out there, so I am anticipating someone shooting as low as seven-under-par this afternoon.”
In contrast to the German’s tournament participation, Boutier is making her first regular LET start of the season, having played predominantly on the LPGA this year but immediately got back in to the swing with five birdies, including a closing three after pitching to three feet.
A stoke further adrift at four-under-par is former Rolex Ranking No. 1 Lydia Ko, who’s round of 68 (-4) included a mixed bag of an eagle, six birdies and four bogeys. The five-time LET winner will almost certainly be one to watch tomorrow.
Defending champion Nuria Iturrios continued her love-affair with Dubai, recording a solid first round of 69 (-3). The young Spaniard got her title defence underway from the 13th tee and while that might be unlucky for some, Iturrioz was pleased with the draw.
“My mum and I like the number 13, she gave me a necklace with this number on it so it’s actually a good thing I started on that tee.
Switching tee times tomorrow, the afternoon starters today are back at it again at 10am (local time) for the start of the second round. Check out the draw HERE.