Italian Giulia Sergas, despite still feeling the effects of a week-long illness,  was in commanding form on the  first day of the Pegasus New Zealand Women’s Open, firing an eight-under par 64 to take a three-shot lead into  the second round.

Her round was even more remarkable considering she had not looked at the course before stepping onto the first tee at 9.20am today. “I’ve been sick for a week and yesterday couldn’t even get out of the house.

“I had no energy, I’m taking anti-biotics and they’re helping, but I still don’t feel 100 per cent even though I played so good,’’ the 31-year-old Sergas said after signing for a round that included an eagle, seven birdies, with her only flaw coming at the par-4 17th when she three-putted for bogey.

That dropped stroke denied her a share of the course record set in the final round last year by Swede Pernila Lindberg, who had 10 birdies in her 63.

The morning field had by far the better of conditions with no wind to start with before a gentle breeze arrived late morning. Those who teed off in the afternoon faced a nor-easterly gusting up to 50kmh and making some of the par-4s into the prevailing wind hard to reach in two.

Twenty-two players broke par in the morning, yet only three, Christel Boeljon (Netherlands), Lydia Ko (New Zealand) and Australia’s Kristie Smith (71) were under the card in the afternoon. Boeljon was the best with a three under 69, but Ko, who had not dropped a shot through her first 17 holes,  had a relatively straight forward up-and-down on the last for a birdie, only to fluff her chip then three-putt from four metres for bogey. Her two under 72 was still a magnificent effort.

The closest rivals to Sergas also started early with Korean Bo-Bea Kim on 67 after a round which had seven birdies and two bogeys. Sharing third on 69, five behind Sergas, were American Amelia Lewis, Cassandra Kirkland, from France, and Anja Monke, from Germany.

Sergas, on her first visit to New Zealand, relied on her regular caddy, Michelle, for course management and for reading the greens. They teamed well except for the three-putt on 17 when the caddy predicted the putt was straight and it took a lot of borrow.

The wind hit Sergas on the back nine and she said it became a factor in putting. “The ball started to move on the greens – it started shaking a little bit and when you see that it’s like you start shaking as well.’’

After birdies at the third and fifth holes, Sergas’ round gained real impetus when she holed a 56yd wedge for an eagle at the par-4 331m sixth. She birdied the par-5 ninth to turn in 31, five-under, then birdied 10, 15 and 16 before having her only bogey at the par-4 17th when she left her approach on the front fringe and three-putted. A birdie at the par-5 finishing hole erased that one lapse.

“I’ll rest now and get better physically for tomorrow. I like the course and hope it’s not super windy tomorrow afternoon and I can play the same golf,’’ said Sergas, who led the 2009 British Open after three rounds before slipping to a share of 11th.

She has played both the LPGA tour in the United States and the LET (European) tour for the last 11 years and has yet to bag her maiden win, a tied second in a LPGA event in 2004 her best result.

“I’ve had some great rounds in the US Open (sixth in the 2008 championship) but I’ve never had a real chance to win – there must be a first time,’’ she said.

Having endured such a tough afternoon today, those first off on Friday should face much more benign conditions.