Stacy Lewis relishes final day challenge in Dubai

American still in lead but the world No 3 knows she needs to beat ‘sneaky’ Pornanong Phatlum and Carlota Ciganda to clinch Dubai Ladies Masters title, reports John McAuley.

Stacy Lewis, who is the top-ranked player to compete in the Dubai Ladies Masters, is two shots ahead of Pornanong Phatlum. Warren Little / Getty Images
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DUBAI // Stacy Lewis emerged from the scorer’s hut at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters and was immediately confronted by one of the volunteers who had accompanied her group during its third round.

The eager gentleman requested that she pose for a few quick pictures, and Lewis dutifully obliged, even suggesting that her caddie and manager join them, too.

Following the perpetuation of what has been an exceptional few months for the former world No 1, Lewis should form the flashbulb focus for a little longer yet.

“With the way things have been over the past year, at every event in the US, everyone wants your attention and everybody expects you to do well, so I’m used to it,” said the American, whose 2-under 70 further brightened the spotlight on her Dubai debut.

Lewis, now third in the world and the top-ranked player in the field, sits perched at the top of the leaderboard heading into the final round at the Ladies European Tour finale.

Two shots better than Pornanong Phatlum, the understated Thai, and with a trio that includes Carlota Ciganda, the 2012 Order of Merit champion, three blows further back, Lewis would not want it any other way.

“As hard as this course is playing, you take every lead you can get,” she said. “I’m right where I need to be going into tomorrow. I do like having a target on my back and being the one to beat.”

Though not quite out of sight, should Lewis rediscover the ball-striking that contributed to a 65 on Thursday, then Saturday’s final round might rapidly become little more than a procession.

Lewis, though, accepts she could encounter a few obstacles along the way.

“Pornanong and I played together for the first two days and she played so solidly,” Lewis said. “She’s just kind of sneaky and steady, so she’s definitely somebody to look out for. And Carlota hits it so far that she can really take advantage of the par 5s.

“But I like being out there and having people chase me. If I just take care of myself tomorrow, I’ll be fine.”

Although she did not say as much, her closest rival appeared to agree.

“Stacy is a very good player, she’s number three in the world and she’s playing very good this week,” said Phatlum said after shooting a 69. “My game is getting better. I’m just trying to take it shot-by-shot and play my best.”

Shanshan Feng will follow a similar mantra. The defending champion moved into a tie for ninth at 2 under. Feng has failed to emulate last year’s record-breaking Dubai display and, with the route to the top heavily congested, she will concentrate solely on her pre-tournament prediction.

“I’m still going to try hard to achieve my goal of top five,” said the Chinese, a favourite coming into the event after winning twice in the past month on the LPGA Tour.

“It’s not frustrating, it’s just golf. You can’t be perfect all the time.”