The leader board is crowded with Australians Karen Lunn and Karrie Webb, Spain’s Maria Hernandez, Korea’s Eun-Hee Ji, Frenchwoman Cassandra Kirkland and Diana Luna of Italy all on six-under-par 66 after the opening round of the ANZ-RACV Ladies Masters at the RACV Royal Pines resort on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
Rolex World No.2 Yani Tseng is leading the chasing pack of seven players just one shot back at five-under par 67. Tseng, shares seventh position with Australians Kristie Smith and Sarah-Jane Smith, Korean Shin-Ae Ahn, England’s Melissa Reid, American Stacy Lewis and Italy’s Giulia Sergas.
Another 14 players, including the 2010 European No. 1 Lee-Anne Pace share 14th position at 4-under par 68. A total of 82 players shot under par in the opening round.
This week Webb has a chance to extend a record in women’s golf that she already owns, that may never been broken. With seven Ladies Masters titles to her name, she is one ahead of fellow Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam who took out her national title six times between 1997 and 2006.
Webb, 36, accumulated her seven wins between 1998 and last year when she produced a closing round of 61 to win by six shots. What is ominous for the strong field this week is her fast start in the benign morning conditions. She commented: “It is nice not to have to make up ground after the first round.There are still three rounds to go but it’s a good start.”
If Webb does secure her eighth title this week, she will edge closer to the men’s record with five-times British Open champion Peter Thomson, winning the New Zealand Open nine times between 1950 and 1971.
Australia’s Karen Lunn was very happy with her opening round, particularly after a disappointing week last week. She said, “Yeah, I am. I played really well today. Last week in Melbourne was a real disappointment, I went in there thinking I might play well and I didn’t. I made the decision this week to just relax and try and enjoy it a bit more. Last week, I think I was just pushing it a bit too hard and trying a little bit hard. Obviously six under after 10, I had some really good chances coming in, didn’t make a lot more. But still I’ll take that as a good sign. You know the first nine this morning were perfect scoring conditions. Generally, I’m really pleased.”
When asked by the media about her resurgence, she responded “The last couple of years have been pretty steady. You know obviously last year, I made that break through, and won in Portugal, which was huge for me. The last couple of years have been pretty consistent. I’ve finished the top Aussie on the European Tour, for two years, so you know I give the young girls a bit of a stick about that.
I’ve worked really hard on my game, on my short game, my attitude, so yeah, it’s all coming together, it’s just nice to get off to a good start this week.”
Luna nearly ran them down late in the day, getting to 6-under by the 15th without dropping a shot but missed the last three greens. She was able to get up and down each time and should have the easier morning conditions in round two.
After missing the cut at the Australian Open last week, American prodigy Alexis Thompson celebrated her 16th birthday with a round of 69 to be three shots from the lead. The highlights of her round were an eagle at the par five third hole and a birthday cake she shared with tournament officials after the round.
Austrian Stefani Michl and Swede Linda Wessberg recorded hole-in-ones at the par three 11th and 5th holes respectively. Michl was left to rue the fact that there is a $60,000 Peugeot on offer for an ace at the 11th on the weekend.