Caroline Hedwall

Australian Alison Whitaker shares the lead with defending champion Caroline Hedwall of Sweden after round one of the UNIQA Ladies Golf Open presented by Raiffeisen in Austria.

Whitaker and Hedwall carded five under par 67s on a glorious opening day at Golfclub Fohrenwaldh in Wiener Neustadt to end one clear of Mikaela Parmlid, Stacey Keating and Klara Spilkova.

Hedwall is playing in her first event since the US Women’s Open after two months out with a hip injury, but said: “Today I got a lot out of it and I’m very happy with five under. Today it felt like I had been playing all summer.”

The Solheim Cup player won this event by four shots a year ago but only started hitting full shots three weeks ago after advice from doctors.

“I didn’t expect anything when I started the round today and I hit a couple of really poor shots, but I still missed pretty well so it wasn’t a catastrophe when I missed it. I’m very happy with the round,” said Hedwall, 23.

“My putting was very solid and I made a lot of putts but that’s basically what I’ve been practising the last two months so it’s nice that it’s paid off.”

Hedwall made birdie putts from inside three metres at the first, third and eighth holes. She dropped a shot on 11 after getting a flyer from the rough and hitting over the green, but recovered with birdies on 13, 15 and 18. Her longest birdie putt of the day was from six metres across the 18th green.

“It’s always an advantage to hit it long and it’s pretty wide so you can use your driver all the time. I feel like I’ve lost a little bit of length with my driver coming back from my injury but I’m starting to get the timing back and hit it further and further during the round. I do hit a lot of short irons and wedges into the greens and I’m usually pretty good with those so I can attack a lot of pins,” said the 2011 LET Rookie of the Year.

Alison Whitaker

Whitaker, who is in her first season on the LET, had seven birdies and two bogeys for her career-best round on the circuit.

“It was good fun out there and it was nice to see some putts going in and some birdies being made. I hit the ball better today. I hit it really straight and felt like I could be aggressive at pins,” said the 26-year-old from Melbourne, who is leading an LET event for the first time.

She began with five birdies on the front nine and bogeyed the 10th. After picking up shots at the 12th and 15th, where she gained a one stroke advantage, she closed with a bogey on the 17th.

She felt that playing her guitar ‘Valentina’ for three hours on Thursday had made the difference as a ‘cathartic, all-encompassing’ experience and she had ‘Have a Little Faith In Me’ in her head throughout the round.

Three time event champion Laura Davies opened with a 70 to sit alongside the 2009 winner Linda Wessberg while the current European Order of Merit leader Carly Booth is one under, having dropped three shots in her last three holes.

The 54-hole strokeplay event continues on Saturday ahead of a cut to the leading 50 professionals and those tied.