Solheim Cup star Catriona Matthew continues to lead the Ladies Irish Open supported by Fáilte Ireland but fellow Scot Carly Booth and Swede Pernilla Lindberg are hot on her heels going into the final round at Killeen Castle.
Matthew posted a second round of 71 on a morning of testing conditions with heavy rain showers forcing the suspension of play for 30 minutes.
She ended the day at six under par and will take a two stroke advantage into the final round, with the defending champion Suzann Pettersen of Norway poised to strike just three strokes off the lead.
Matthew was three under on the front nine but came back in two over. After compensating for two dropped shots with a pair of birdies, she found the water off the tee on 17 resulting in a double bogey.
“I’m a little bit disappointed. I played well on the front nine and then just a bad drive on 17 cost me a double: one under, so not too bad,” explained the North Berwick 42-year-old.
Booth, who won twice on the Ladies European Tour earlier this season in Scotland and Switzerland, had a three under 69 despite taking a double bogey on the par-three 16th.
The 20-year-old from Comrie was also out in the more difficult morning conditions and said: “I played very steady, very good golf today; one double bogey on the 16th but other than that, five birdies and very happy with my game.
"I missed a lot of chances. I was hitting it very close today but I holed a number of them as well. I would have been really happy with my round if I didn’t put it in the water on 16, so other than that, it would have been a really good day.”
Lindberg played under sunny skies in the afternoon and started on the tenth hole where she picked up an immediate birdie. However she proceeded to drop three shots on the back nine before recovering with a pair of birdies on holes six and seven for a round of 72.
Lindberg is yet to claim her maiden Ladies European Tour trophy but came close at the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open in China last October, when she finished second behind World No.1 Yani Tseng.
“Every time I’m up there in the final group on Sunday I learn more and more and I’m ready to go,” said Lindberg, who was third at the World Ladies Championship in China in March.
World No.6 Pettersen put herself back in the hunt with a 69 which featured an eagle on the 460-yard seventh hole, where she played a driver, five-iron to 20 feet and holed the putt.
Although the course was generally wet and playing long, with little run on the fairways and preferred lies in operation, Pettersen said: “I actually got to most of the par fives today too so it was good playing conditions. I’m glad to be in one of the last groups having a long shot at this title. I think I’ve won two out of three times I’ve played in Ireland so hopefully I can draw off the feel of this course.”
Pettersen played with four-time Irish Open champion Sophie Gustafson and Irish amateur Leona Maguire in a group which comfortably attracted the largest galleries.
Gustafson recovered from a quadruple bogey on the par-three 16th to post a 75 and sits at one over, however Maguire was less fortunate. Her second round of 72 was a vast improvement on her opening 80 but she ended on eight over par which meant she agonisingly missed the cut by one shot.
Although there will be no Irish players competing on Sunday, Alison Walshe of the United States is a player with Irish family connections and she sits in a share of sixth place on level par with England’s Felicity Johnson and Scotland’s Kylie Walker.
Final round play begins at 8.15am and there are several Solheim Cup players in the last four groups. The leading trio of Lindberg, Booth and Matthew tee off at midday, just after Pettersen, Bennett and Johnson.