(Melbourne, Australia, February 28 2002) World number two Karrie Webb from Australia put behind the disappointment of losing in a playoff to Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam last week to lead after the first round of the $Aus500,000 AAMI Australian Open at Yarra Yarra GC in Melbourne.

In the benign and drizzly conditions of the morning round, Webb negotiated her way around the Dr Alistair Mackenzie designed layout with a four under par 68 to lead by a stroke from two Swedes, Asa Gottmo, who carded the best score in the windy afternoon conditions, and visiting amateur Helena Svensson.

Pettersen – 80/1 odds

A birdie at the par five eighth repaired the damage and last year’s Evian Tour rookie of the year followed with a spectacular birdie at the par three 11th, hitting a six iron to six feet.

The 20-year-old from Oslo missed a gilt-edged opportunity for birdie at the 13th, and a bogey from a bad drive resulted at the 14th. However, the powerful Norwegian birdied the par fives at 16 and 18 to sit on Webb’s shoulder.

“I was hitting the ball OK and making a lot of good putts,” said Pettersen, winner of the French Open in 2001. “I tried not to give myself too many long putts as some of them are difficult to read.

“I love this course, it seems to get better each time I play it. You have to be pretty precise from the tee and miss on the correct side.”

Sandolo made only one mistake in her 70, dropping a shot at the tricky par three 15th when she flew the green with her nine-wood. But birdies at the first, sixth and 17th rectified her round and the French-born Italian was happy to be back on form.

“I was attacking the 15th a bit much with my nine wood, but other than that I played well, said Sandolo, whose best finish on Tour is tied for fifth at the La Perla Italian Open last year.

Defending champion Sophie Gustafson from Sweden closed with a three birdies to rescue a two over par 74, after being five over at the 14th hole, and England’s Laura Davies made a dramatic eagle at the 410 metre par five 18th to tie the Swede on two over.

“These are the fastest greens I have ever played on,” said Davies, who was also struggling when she reached the 14th hole.

“When I was five over, I didn’t care, I knew I was playing well but just couldn’t score. I wasn’t playing badly at all. I think I am hitting it well and I’ll need a five or six under tomorrow to keep me in the hunt.”