(Gold Coast, Australia, February 20 2003) Patricia Meunier Lebouc of France took full advantage of the soft playing conditions and some good fortune at Royal Pines GC, carding eight birdies and two bogeys for a six under par 66 and leads after the opening round of the $Aus800, 000 ANZ Ladies Masters.

After hours of torrential rain soaked the course on Wednesday, scoring was ripe with 59 players at even par or better at the end of play. But at the top, the 30-year-old from Dijon leads by one over a confident England’s Laura Davies and Australian Michelle Ellis, both of whom had 67.

Pre-Tournament favourite Karrie Webb from Australia is still in touch to claim her fifth ANZ Masters title after an opening four under 68 and shares fourth place alongside fellow Aussies Rebecca Stevenson and Alison Munt.

And also on four under, having played through incessant rainfall in the afternoon, Scotland’s Janice Moodie put a little sunshine in her day as she rattled off a six under par 31 on her homeward nine, which included an eagle two after she holed her eight iron shot from 138-yards at the fourth hole.

Eight players share eighth place on three under including European number one Paula Marti, Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, Swede Maria Boden, Finland’s Riikka Hakkarainen, Americans Laura Diaz and Natalie Gulbis, promising rookie Lorena Ochoa from Mexico and Australian Corinne Dibnah, who rediscovered her touch on the greens with a new ‘belly putter’.

Starting at the tenth, Meunier-Lebouc turned in three under with birdies at the 12th, 14th and 18th and began her homeward nine in similar fashion with a birdie at the first. Consecutive birdies at the third and fourth saw her threatening the course record of 64 but after hitting ‘fat’ approach shots at the fifth and sixth, consecutive bogeys resulted.

Her recently habitual ‘fat’ shot returned at the seventh, but this time, the former Solheim Cupper chipped in and her luck returned. And with a five iron to two feet at the penultimate hole, Meunier-Lebouc led.

“I didn’t have a very boring day,” giggled the Frenchwoman, who is married to former European Tour player Antoine Lebouc.

“It wasn’t like I make a load of pars, the odd birdie and was steady – I was holing long putts, hitting fat shots, holing chips and it was very interesting for the start of the season. It was very funny today.

“I’m playing pretty good for the first round of the year, I am very happy. I haven’t done much for three months and just started to play golf again three weeks ago and I’m doing well.

“Today, anywhere I was on the green, I knew I could hole it, it was great and I’m happy on the first day of the season and it gives me some motivation to keep going.”

Davies admitted to rediscovering her confidence on the course and with last week’s final round birdie blitz to finish runner up after a playoff at the ALPG Players Championship, the former world number one signalled her intent at finding the winner’s circle soon.

Six birdies and one bogey not only delighted Davies, but also her many fans who would love to see her claim victory here for the third time.

“It was very good today,” confessed Davies, who has won 64 career titles.

“I had a shocking shot at my first hole, (the tenth) but after that, I was never in trouble. The driver was working well and I used it at every (long) hole apart from the seventh.

“I’m very confident with my game and now I’m taking it out on the course, which is what I haven’t done over the last couple of years.”