Caroline Hedwall of Sweden will take a one-shot lead into the weekend at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open after a spectacular 65 that included a hole in one.
Hedwall, the combustible Swede, will start at 11-under for the tournament and play alongside the world No. 2, Suzann Pettersen from Norway, in an all-Nordic final group. Pettersen was less spectacular than on Thursday, but she followed her opening 66 with a 68 to reach 10-under-par in her quest for the world No. 1 ranking.
Australia's burgeoning 17-year-old superstar amateur, Minjee Lee, is in the reckoning for the second consecutive weekend after a wonderful 67 left her at nine-under, after she was runner-up to Cheyenne Woods at Royal Pines last week.
The teenaged Lee, a member of Golf Australia's elite programs, is surrounded by superstar players, with the likes of Anna Nordqvist (-8), Jessica Korda (-7), Paula Creamer (-7) and Lydia Ko all threatening in a bunched leaderboard.
Lee is the leading Australian but Jessica Speechley (-6) also had a good opening two days, while veteran Karrie Webb is in the pack at four-under, after carding a 69 today.
Hedwall, the Swedish Solheim-Cupper and LPGA Tour player is at the top of her game, ranked 23rd in the world with a bullet, but she has never won an LPGA tournament. This weekend amounts to her big opportunity.
She aced the par-three 16th to vault into the lead today, but she never saw the ball go into the hole because the green is elevated, and the crowd was strangely silent until she walked up to the putting surface. "Yesterday I hit a full seven-iron over the green and it was basically the same yardage today, so I hit a soft one and it covered the pin all the way and then I just saw it bounce once and hit the pin. But I didn't see it go in,'' the Swede said. "I think the crowd up there, they didn't want to yell because Laura (Davies) or someone was hitting off number 17, so we walked up there and they were like, 'it went in'. I was like, 'oh, nice'. It wasn't really the feeling when you see it go in, but it's always nice.''
It was her fourth career hole-in-one and it came as part of a rip-roaring round of 65 that, tied to her her opening 68, put her into the lead in the Open. Hedwall is no stranger to where she is today. At the Solheim Cup teams contest between Europe and the United States she has proven to be the star player for Europe, going unbeaten last year in a first for any player. She is ranked 23rd in the world with a bullet next to her name, and she hits it hard and long.
"I mean, I've always been swinging it hard. I grew up with a twin sister (Jacqueline) and we were competing against each other hitting it the furthest on the driving range, so I guess it comes from that and I've always been very explosive, which I see as a great talent. I try to use that and I do hit it really hard.''
Her score card told the story of the way she plays. It included the ace at the 16th, an eagle at the par-five eighth, five birdies and two bogeys, a huge splash of color. It's her style. "I'd definitely rather be a person that can shoot really low and make a lot of birdies, I mean, that's what's fun! I don't mind making a bogey here and there if I make lots of birdies.''
Hedwall, 24, has won eight times around the world but never on the LPGA Tour. She won the New South Wales Open on her professional debut in 2011, and she loves the environment, though not the flies. "You guys have great golf courses down here and the people are so relaxed and so welcoming, nice weather. I think everything is great down here. It is absolutely one of my favourite stops.''
Lee, the Western Australian junior who is part of Golf Australia's elite programs, actually held the lead when she birdied her last hole of the day, the ninth on the course, but Hedwall overtook her half an hour later. Lee said she planned on turning professional at the end of this year and travelling to the LPGA Tour school. On current form, she will make a good fist of it.
Asked if she was thinking about winning, Lee said: "No, I'm just going to play how I play and if I can get close, then good. But, yes, just carry on as I'm going.''
The scoring average was under par in beautiful conditions today, with Nordqvist breaking the course record for women with a 64, and Hedwell and Woods both taking 65. With the leader at 11-under, the world's best women have not been troubled by the famed sandbelt course.