First-round leader Stacey Keating at Chantaco

SAINT-JEAN-DE-LUZ, France — Australian Stacey Keating opened with an eight under par 62 in ideal conditions to grab a four shot lead at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France on Thursday.

Azahara Muñoz of Spain

Keating won her first professional title in her last start on the Ladies European Tour a fortnight ago, at the Tenerife Open de España.  

The 26-year-old from Cressy in Victoria continued her solid play, starting with three birdies in a row and was six under through the turn at Chantaco Golf Club.  

She three-putted on 11 but picked up three straight birdies from the 15th to record her career best round in two seasons as a professional.

“I’ve been playing well the last few weeks obviously, but it’s nice to put it all together in one round,” said Keating. “I’m feeling very confident about my game right now and I’m happy where I am.”

She hit 17 greens and made 28 putts, with her boyfriend Darren Peters on caddie duties.

“Daz was on fire with his reads. It’s really nice putting on these greens. They are really, really good,” said Keating, who made nine birdie putts, with her longest from 30 feet across the third green and her shortest a tap-in on six.

Virginie Lagoutte-Clement from France

Chantaco, steeped in history, is the home club of the Lacoste family where former US Women’s Open champion, Catherine Lacoste, was president for 35 years before her niece, Camille, took over the role in 2009.

The Lacoste sponsored players performed particularly well with Azahara Muñoz of Spain and French duo Virginie Lagoutte-Clement and Sophie Giquel-Bettan all at four under par, alongside Lydia Hall of Wales.

Solheim Cup player Muñoz started slowly with two birdies against one bogey on the front nine, but picked up three shots in her last four holes.

“I finished with three birdies in a row, 15, 16, 17, so that kind of leaves a sweet taste in my mouth,” she said. “I played kind of solid, but didn’t hit many good shots. I didn’t make many putts at the beginning but at the end I started rolling the ball much better.”

Giquel credited a change in strategy: “I was more aggressive than usual. I used to aim for the middle of the greens and think that two putts is good. Now it’s like, go for the pin, even if you miss it’s not a big deal because you’ve got good chipping and putting,” she said.

Lagoutte-Clement revealed that she hadn’t enjoyed golf for a year, but has been working with French mental coach, Emmanuelle Simtaine, for the last six months.  

“I just try to feel well and I just want to play my game and take pleasure, because I can’t take pleasure for one year. I want to play my game and relax,” she said.

Hall, who won the ISPS Handa Ladies British Masters in August, was in the hunt for a second title and said: “I definitely like this style of course. I can be fairly aggressive and the greens are in fantastic condition as well.

“They are very tricky: the greens are quick, so I had a couple of three-putts out there today. I played very solid, hit 17 greens, 10 fairways, so I think I missed only one fairway and played really solid.”

Lorena Ochoa and her brother Alejandro, who is her manager and her caddie at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France

Retired former number one Lorena Ochoa, playing at the request of the sponsor, shot a one-under round of 69.

Ochoa won two majors among 27 victories before retiring from full-time golf in April 2010 to focus on her family and charities.

After her first round on tour in two years, she said: “I think for sure, I made a couple of mistakes out there that made me mad, but I think it was a good day. I was trying to go around in par.”

The 30-year-old from Mexico admitted that the lack of practice had affected her short game: “I three putted a couple of times and it made me really mad, but it’s okay. I have to bear with some bad shots. I think tomorrow, if I get the speed right, especially on the front nine, if I feel more comfortable, I’m going to make more putts and make more birdies.”

The second round begins at 9am on Friday, after which there will be a halfway cut from the field of 78 players to the leading 50 professionals and those tied.