France’s Anne-Lise Caudal birdied her 17th hole to move one clear of a jam packed leader board after the opening round of the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch.

After a glorious day at Clearwater Golf Club, Caudal leads the field at six-under-par and one clear of Oates Victorian Open winner Marianne Skarpnord, Denmark’s Nanna Madsen and American Samantha Troyanovich. Another four players are at four-under-par, Australian amateur Hannah Green, American Beth Allen, Italian Giulia Sergas and Finland’s Noora Tamminen.

Calm conditions greeted the morning wave, which Troyanovich and Madsen took advantage of, posting their five-under-par rounds of 67. However Skarpnord and Caudal were out in the afternoon and had to content with breezy conditions.

Caudal she started on the 10th hole and got off to a perfect start, with birdies on the opening two holes. Birdies on the 13th and 16th holes followed, however her only blemish of the day came on the tough par 4 18th. Caudal hit her tee shot into the right hand fairway bunker and then found a watery grave with her second, before eventually finishing with a double bogey. She made the turn two-under-par.

The 30-year-old then went on a birdie blitz on the front nine, with consecutive birdies on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th holes. She was tied for the lead with two to play, a birdie on the par 3 8th saw her break free from the players already in the clubhouse.

It was a combination of her ball striking and putting which worked for her: “I hit the ball pretty well, my second shots were really good, I hit some pretty good shots very close and I was very confident on the putting so that helped me to keep going.”

Caudal has been well playing in the last two ALPG events in Australia and wasn’t surprised by her score. “I played some good rounds last year, and then last week and the week before also. I had two good weeks, I was very confident on the golf course, and I feel quite confident on this golf course,” she said.

Asked if she will feel pressure to keep the birdies flowing, she was very relaxed when she replied: “Not really, I am just going to do the same, shot after shot and focus on the present, if the birdies come great, if not, just keep patient, there is another day on Sunday.”

A record first day crowd of 5,800 spectators greeted the Rolex World No.1 Lydia Ko when she teed off in the afternoon in her home open. It wasn’t quite the day she wanted as she found it difficult to adjust to the type of shots she was hitting and the pace of the greens.

“Last week you were aiming to pitch 10 metres short of the green and asking it to run up. This week you have to say to yourself, let’s just hit it. Two different courses and two very different conditions. It was tough on me today to hit the ball by the hole and be comfortable.

“They (the greens) are very much slower here. Last week they were running 11 and a half to 12 and here they are 10 to 10 and a half. You watch your opponent come up short them you hit it well past. It was difficult to judge. It is totally different so now I have to get back into the NZ Open mode.”

Having said that, the World No.1 is just four shots back and tied for 14th place in a group with fellow teenager Charley Hull, also at two-under-par 70. Dame Laura Davies is at one-under-par and shares 23rd place. There are 40 players below par after the first day and the cut will be made to the top 50 professionals and those tied at the conclusion of round two on Saturday.