On a demanding golf course that had some players drawing references to Pinehurst No.2 and Augusta National, Fatima Fernandez Cano fired a six-birdie, two-bogey round of 68 to take a two-shot lead over five players in the Murphy USA El Dorado Classic.
“This is a really tough golf course,” Fernandez Cano said of Mystic Creek Golf Club, which is ranked the No. 1 course in Arkansas with a course rating from the tips of 78.1. “I’ve played it twice before and I was prepared in that I knew you had to be mentally stronger than you do everywhere else. You have to be on top of every shot. You can’t take a moment off. So, I was just happy to hit it solid today and make a few putts.”
Fernandez Cano hit 17 of 18 greens but still made two bogeys, which speaks to the difficulty of Mystic Creek. Only 12 players broke par in benign conditions on Friday and half of those were only -1.
“It’s unusual for the Epson Tour but I really enjoyed playing this kind of hard golf course,” said Meghan MacLaren, who is tied for second at 2-under par. “We don’t often play courses that are as mentally engaging as this one. A lot of places you just have to make birdies and that’s it. Obviously, that’s one skill but this is something different. You have to be on the ball with your approaches because you can hit good shots and end up in dead spots pretty easily. Sometimes that means giving yourself a 25-footer, and not an easy 25-footer. But that beats the alternative. So, it requires a different mindset.”
“My ball striking is the strength of my game,” Fernandez Cano said. “My iron play has been especially good, which is what you have to have out here. The margin for error out here is very small and even though the greens might be big, you miss the spot a little bit and you run off into an area that is very tough. You just have to be on the right plateaus.
“I have also been working really hard on my putting and that worked really well today. But being mentally strong and not saying, ‘okay, hit the green, two putt; hit the green, two putt,’ that has been a big part of what I’ve been working on.”
Sarah Hoffman, Laura Wearn, Marlene Krolboll Hansen and Lucy Li share second with MacLaren at 2-under par.
“I feel like I’ve gotten a little longer which has helped, especially on a golf course of like this,” Li said.
Tied at 1-under par are Sophia Schubert, Yaeeun Hong, Katelyn Dambaugh, Savannah Vilaubi, Allison Emrey and Casey Danielson, who is currently No. 3 in the Race for the Card.