WHEN she holed her final putt of the opening round for an 8-under 65 at Royal Adelaide, Katherine Kirk didn’t think the score would hold up by the end of the day but she was wrong.
Her eight-birdie, no-bogey performance on Thursday at the Women’s Australian Open was more than enough to lead with nobody getting closer than two shots to the popular Queenslander at any stage during the day.
An afternoon run by Taiwan’s Min Lee only served to swell the ranks of those at 6-under to four, American Lizette Salas and Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum both shot 5-under 68 in the afternoon to share sixth place with Scotland’s Michele Thompson.
Lee’s 67 was the best of the afternoon scores and came in more breezy conditions than those the players faced earlier in the day and the 21-year-old attributed her performance to some off-season work on her mental game.
MIN LEE CHATS ABOUT HER OPENING 67:
“In the off-season, I played a couple of tournaments in Taiwan and I played really well and that really helped me, give me a lot of confidence,” Lee said.
“So, when I come back to the first tournament in the Bahamas, I just tried to have the same attitude, like when I was in Taiwan.
“For the last two years, I push myself too much and I really want to win the tournament and I want to keep my card, but this year, the last off-season, I’ve been reading books and seeing different people and just try to relax myself and get my mental back to a really good condition.”
She said she was pleased to have played well in the more difficult conditions and was hopeful of a calm morning round.
“In the afternoon, it’s always tougher,” she said, “so I’m really happy that I can play really well and I really look forward to tomorrow.”
LPGA regulars Jane Park and Chella Choi share second place with Lee alongside little-known American Marissa Steen.
Rookie professional Hannah Green is next best of the Australians behind Kirk at T9 after a 4-under performance while Olympian Su Oh is a shot further back in a log-jam of golfers at 3-under and sharing 17th.
Of the big names in the field, World No. 8 Brooke Henderson impressed with an opening 4-under and outplayed World No. 1 and playing partner Lydia Ko by two shots.
Henderson gave herself an ‘8 out of 10’ for her four birdies and no bogeys while Ko was left to lament a cold putter after missing several makeable chances.
World No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn never appeared comfortable in her round and mixed two bogeys with three birdies to be 1-under and T41.
Also struggling to gain momentum was Australia’s highest-ranked player, Minjee Lee, who is also at 1-under after a pedestrian two-birdie and one-bogey performance.
American superstar Michelle Wie is part of the group of players at 3-under while five-time champion Karrie Webb limped to a 3-over 76.
BROOKE HENDERSON PLEASED WITH HER OPENING 69 AT ROYAL ADELAIDE: