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JEDDAH: England’s Alice Hewson stormed to an 8-under-par 64 on Friday to lead at the halfway point of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF.

The 24-year-old carded six birdies on the back nine to come home in 30, a scintillating return that shaved three strokes off her career-best Ladies European Tour round. It put her top of the pile, on 9-under, with two rounds remaining at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

“I really enjoyed my day today,” said Hertfordshire-born Hewson. “It didn’t really feel like a 64. I just played every shot as it came and I putted really well. I think I only had 22 putts, so that really helps on these greens.

“I didn’t really put too much pressure on myself. I didn’t drive the best. I was in the rough a little bit more than I might’ve liked but I was actually giving myself some good angles to be aggressive into the pins.”

Asked whether heading into the weekend as leader will change her approach, Hewson said: “I go into every single tournament with the ultimate goal to win — that’s why we play golf. The next few days I’ll just go out there and enjoy it, stick to my processes and do exactly what I’ve done these first two days. I can only go out there and control what I can control, and that’s my game and my processes.”

Minjee Lee of Australia during round two of the Saudi Ladies International. (Supplied)

Sanna Nuutinen from Finland sits one shot behind Hewson, after following-up her opening day 71 with a 65 on Friday.

“Today I just made a lot of putts,” Nuutinen said. “Ball-striking wise, I made a few changes two months ago and it’s only been getting better and better.

“I’ve not been hitting it bad, I just haven’t made any putts for a long time, so it was nice to get the putter going again. As long as I’m always putting for birdies it’s fine, just not when I’m having to make a lot of putts for par.

“It’s a four-day event so there’s a lot of golf to play and a lot of things can happen, so I’ll just stick to my process, which is trying to get better every day.”

Three players — Caroline Hedwall and Linnea Strom from Sweden, and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko — are a shot further back on 7-under.

Former world No. 1 Ko, who led the field going into Friday’s round, said: “My long game was much better today. I made some careless mistakes on the back nine but other than that I played solid.

“I could’ve made some more putts but most days you feel like you could’ve done better. I’ve just got to keep working out there and hopefully the feel with the long game that I thought was good out there will continue into the weekend.

“I’ve been setting myself up with good opportunities for birdies. Continuing that and setting myself up with chances is the best I can do.”

Anna Nordqvist, the Swedish three-time major winner, is on 4-under and Australia’s Minjee Lee on 3-under, with American Alison Lee and England’s Dame Laura Davies both tied with a heap of players on 2-under.

Morocco’s Maha Haddioui, the first and only Arab golfer on the Ladies European Tour, fought back from a 4-over-par opening day with a 4-under-par reverse on Friday, securing her weekend spot in a tournament where she is a firm fan favorite.

“It was great today,” said Haddioui. “My goal for today was just to play simple, not get too mad about things on the course, and it worked. It was about playing simple and staying positive.

Sanna Nuutinen sits one shot behind Hewson in second. (Supplied)

“I left quite a lot of shots out there, which is a really good thing if you shoot 4-under. I just want to take that positive energy into tomorrow and start again from scratch. I’m delighted to be here for the weekend.”

She added: “I didn’t play well yesterday, despite doing everything by the book with my meditation and everything, so I was annoyed. Today, I just ignored all of that, didn’t meditate or do my workout. I just said to myself, ‘Go play golf and have fun’ — and it worked.”

The $1 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by Public Investment Fund continues on Saturday and Sunday at the Royal Greens. It will be be followed from Nov. 10 to 12 at the same venue by the Aramco Team Series Jeddah, the last of four new $1 million team tournaments added to the LET this season.

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