Nikki Garrett during her first round at Golf Las Américas

Australian Nikki Garrett set a blistering pace as she opened with a bogey-free career-low round of eight under par 64 at the Tenerife Open de España Femenino at Golf Las Américas.

Garrett was out in the first group from the 10th at 8.30am and played flawless golf on a beautiful day, with temperatures at 27C and little breeze.

Australian Nikki Garrett

She birdied 11, 16 and 17 for a back nine total of three under before picking up five birdies on the front nine, with three in a row to close from the seventh.

“I just played really solid the whole day. I hit a lot of greens, hit a few close shots that I really capitalised on and sunk the putts. I chipped in out of the bunker on my eighth hole, which is 17, so just everything went well,” said the 28-year-old from Shelly Beach, New South Wales.

Garrett has an excellent record in Spain having won the 2007 Tenerife Ladies Open at Golf Del Sur and then the Open de España Femenino at Sergio Garcia’s home course, Country Club Mediterráneo in Castellón, the following week.

She tied for second behind Becky Brewerton in a non-official Ladies European Tour matchplay event at Golf Las Américas last June and clearly relishes playing in Spain.

“I love Tenerife, I love Spain.  I had both my wins in Tenerife, Spain, so it feels a lot like home. I’m always very relaxed when I play in this part of the world,” said Garrett.

“To come second last year and go out there and I really like the course, so I was really relaxed.”

The 2006 Rookie of the Year explained how she recently started hitting her drives from the turf rather than from a tee in a similar style to Laura Davies.

“I’ve been teeing it up a little bit like Laura the last two and a half weeks and I think for me, thats been a bit of a key, because I’ve been playing it well from after the driver, so to get things in the fairway, a good score was bound to happen sooner or later.

“I’ve always practised hitting driver off the deck as a kid, just for fun and just because you want to try and do something different. I think I just commit to it more.

England’s Trish Johnson

“I had a lesson last week at the British Open off Gerald (Adams), Laura’s caddie, how to do the grass properly, so I’ve got it down packed a little bit now. It’s a lot harder here because the grass sprays everywhere but it’s just a confidence thing and as long as it goes in the fairway I don’t really care.”

Trish Johnson, the 2010 Tenerife Ladies Open champion at Buenavista Golf Club in the north of the island, was at five under after a 67 containing six birdies and one bogey.

The Swindon-based 46-year-old said: “I think it was pretty good all the way around really, from start to finish. I started quite well, one under early on, birdied 16, 17 and one: I was playing the back nine first obviously and got to four under. I made one mistake really. I had a birdie putt to go to six under on the fifth, which I missed. I hit a poor tee shot on the par-three fifth hole, didn’t get up and down, and that was the only poor shot I hit really.”

Johnson was clearly happy to have left the harsh conditions at the recent Ricoh Women’s British Open back in England: “I think anyone who played last week, coming off of that, in two, three, four club winds and really tight fairways that you can’t miss then this is a breath of fresh air. No course is tight after you’ve just played Hoylake in a 30 mile an hour wind.”

Italian Veronica Zorzi, South African Lee-Anne Pace and Germany’s Miriam Nagl carded four under par 68s to lie in a share of third place.

Pace, the 2010 Ladies European Tour money list winner, started with two bogeys on 10 and 11 but fought back with six birdies.

“I played really well today. I started quite badly but made six birdies after that. No more mistakes, so that was good. I definitely left a couple out there,” said Pace, a five-time winner on the Ladies European Tour.  

South African Lee-Anne Pace

Pace has a chance to top the LET’s ISPS Handa Order of Merit for a second time with a victory this week and added: “I’m trying to really push this week for the win and getting up there, making a move on the money list, getting a bit closer to the top or if not at the top. I’m very much a big golf mover towards the end of the year.”

Meanwhile Zorzi is going for her first title since 2006. “I played good. I got one eagle, so that was great and I got some pars, two bogeys. I hit 12 fairways, so it’s good. The ball was on the fairways. I hit 13 greens and made 27 putts so the putting was the key today,” said the 31-year-old from Verona.

“The eagle was at the seventh. I hit driver and three-wood and then got a putt, like eight metres. I just tried to roll the ball, not thinking about techniques or how to move the putter. Just rolling the ball where I want to. It was the key for me.”

Italian Veronica Zorzi

Zorzi has her boyfriend Alberto Furlani acting as her caddie and is enjoying the fine food and weather for which the Canary Islands are renowned.

“I like the course. It’s in good shape. It’s good weather and for me, when you are in good weather, it’s fine, like in Italy. It’s a bit like home: nice weather, good food. It’s all the things that I like!” she said.

The 2010 Spanish Open champion Laura Davies was in a large group at three under par, while the 2011 and 2009 winners, Melissa Reid and Becky Brewerton, opened with respective rounds of 74 and 78.