Australian Karrie Webb defied blustery conditions to conjure a stunning 65 for a one stroke lead on the opening day of the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open.
The 42-year-old from Ayr in Queensland sprinted in with six birdies – including five in a row from the 11th – for a back-nine total of 30 at Dundonald Links in North Ayrshire.
Webb is a stroke ahead of fellow former world number one Cristie Kerr from the United States, who shot a 66 in winds gusting up to 25mph in the morning. The veteran pair have 60 LPGA wins and two Major championship titles between them, while four more experienced competitors are lined up behind them on three-under-par.
Olympic gold medallist Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Sei Young Kim and Pornanong Phatlum all made light of the tough conditions, while Ladies European Tour players Kylie Henry and Michele Thomson lead the field’s nine Scottish players, with one-over 73s.
Most were left astonished by Webb’s magnificent performance, after the Hall of Famer produced some precision iron-play to set up eight birdies in total.
She birdied the second and then made a solitary bogey on the third, before picking up a shot at the ninth hole. After a run of five birdies on the back nine, she made another at the last hole to move one ahead of the field.
“I sort of really hung in there through the front nine and made a nice birdie on nine to turn at one-under, and then just really started swinging at it well and hitting it quite close and had some good birdie chances and made the most of them,” she said afterwards.
“I did start to hit some good shots, and I just kept telling myself to just keep going. When you make a few birdies, not to just go into the mode of holding on. I felt like I was swinging it pretty well and seeing the reads well and hitting solid putts. I was just tell myself just to keep going and make as many birdies as I could.”
Webb’s last victories came in 2014, when she won both the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and JTBC Founders Cup and she had been struggling this season until recently, with her best finish being a tie for 17th at the ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer in February.
“You know, my iron game, really for most of this year, but a little bit of last year, hasn’t been great. I pride myself on being a good iron player. I think that really took a toll on me mentally because that was always something I could trust. I didn’t really have to worry about that. “I really hit my irons probably the best I had for four rounds at the U.S. Open, so I think mentally, I got over that hump,” she added.
For more than half the day, it looked as though Kerr had an unassailable lead, having shot a bogey-free 66 in the worst of the weather in the morning.
The 39-year-old from Miami said after her round: “I just controlled my ball really well out there, with the crosswinds and trajectory and I had a great day. I just kind of hit the ball where I was trying to hit it in the areas I was trying to hit it in, and made some putts.
“The score added up really well, but it was tough to stand over the shots and be able to execute. It’s never easy here, so I’m very pleased with the score. I hit the ball in the areas I was trying to hit it in and made some putts as well. It was a great day. It’s never easy here and you can never take anything for granted.”
Of the large group of players on two-under-par, England’s Annabel Dimmock is the leading British player, with Georgia Hall and Inci Mehmet a stroke further back.
Conditions are expected to be bright and breezy on Friday, but with winds a notch higher, gusting up to 30mph. The second round gets under way at 6.45am and Webb will tee off early at 7.15am, in a marquee group with Inbee Park and Michelle Wie.