Scot Dryburgh sets pace in Morocco

Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh opened with a four-under-par 68 to take a one stroke lead at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Rabat, Morocco.

The 23-year-old from Aberdeen carded five birdies and one bogey on the Blue Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam and said that she would go to bed happy knowing that she was ahead of Suzann Pettersen, Nicole Garcia, Klára Spilková and Lydia Hall.

Dryburgh, on her second year in the LET, said: “It’s a very good feeling. I’ll be up early tomorrow and get the ball rolling. I just have to do the same thing: play my game, stick to the game plan and one shot at a time. It’s obviously very early in the tournament so I’ll keep patient.”

She picked up birdies on the second, ninth, 11th, 12th and 14th holes, with just a single mistake on the par-4 13th and added: “I played really well and my putting was especially good. I only had 20 putts and I didn’t hit that many greens. I had a couple of up and downs. The greens are immaculate, they are rolling really well and if you hit it on the right line, they will go in.”

Pettersen had a mixed round with seven birdies and four bogeys. After an errant tee shot on the 17th, her ball bounced off a cork tree back into the fairway and she recovered with a par. She then finished with a birdie on the 18th to tie for the clubhouse lead on three-under-par, after a long, straight 280-yard drive.

“Today was a little bit of everything and I’m very glad I managed to put three-under together. I really wasted some shots out there from poor positions in the fairway, so it was a little bit up and down, but I’m happy with the way I scrambled and I managed to put a three-under together.

“The greens are rolling very pure. They are very true, so whatever you see is what they do. It’s great to be here in Morocco. It’s my first time, I want to say. I was in Marrakech 20 years ago but I can’t remember much. It’s great to be here to support the tournament. Another day tomorrow and we’ll see where that takes us.”

Spilkova and Hall, who played in the same group, set the pace earlier in the day. Spilková is playing in her first LET tournament of the season and she said: “It was a really relaxed round and I only hit 10 greens, but I had 24 putts, so that helps. I had two chip-ins as well, on the last hole, the ninth and on the par-3 fourth.

“I just took a month’s rest, doing some boxing and then practising in Thailand for two weeks and I went to the LETAS event in Terre Blanche and finished really well. I was a little bit nervous on the first day I arrived here, but it’s great to be back. It’s the start of the season and I feel like, ‘let’s do it’ and I’m really motivated.”

Hall added: “At the start of the day I would have taken three-under, but I’m a little disappointed to have bogeyed the last hole. Klara and I both had 69 and kept spurring each other on.”

Meanwhile, Moroccan Olympian Haddioui is tied for sixth with eight other players on two-under-par. She said: “I’m happy to start with this score. There was a lot of pressure and I’m expecting a lot from myself this week.”

She explained that the experience of playing with His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid in the Pro-Am helped her to cope with the added scrutiny of playing on home soil.