World No.1 Lydia Ko is making her move up the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open leaderboard.
The New Zealand prodigy opened with five pars in her chase of morning leader Ilhee Lee, but struck one of her trademark irons to within a metre on the par-four sixth hole to set her title chase in motion.
She then birdied the par-five 10th to move into a tie for fifth at two under par.
Lee, who joked that her goal was to be the top-ranked Lee among the five in this week’s field at Royal Melbourne, didn’t make a bogey en route to her scintillating five-under-par 68.
And with the course appearing to dry out and toughen up as the day unfolds, the early scores seem to be holding up.
Lee leads by one from young Thai star Ariya Jutanugarn, with Canadian Alena Sharp having been joined at three under by the leading afternoon player, Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera, who’s through six holes.
Rebecca Artis and Katherine Kirk share the honour as leading Australian at one under after matching 72s, while five-time and defending champion Karrie Webb made a couple of closing birdies to finish at even-par 73.
Lee said she only made a late decision to come to Melbourne after her coach World Golf Hall of Fame member Sandra Haynie convinced her she had the game to contend on a course that claimed her before the cut on her only previous Sandbelt appearance in 2012.
“It’s good to see how improved my golf is this year … because I was here in 2012 (and) how I see the golf course at that time and now (is) totally different,” she said.
“It’s really, really fun to see how much I improved since then.”
Pressed as to what had changed in her mind. Lee smiled and said: “The thirteenth hole (the 3rd on Royal Melbourne’s West Course), that hole in 2012 (was) very narrow and tough, but now I can see big fairway.”
“I (now) see the right thing first, I see how I manage the golf course better and then my drive’s better than then and swing’s got better, putting’s better, everything’s much better than that time.”
The delightful Lee, winner of the 2013 Bahamas Classic on the LPGA Tour, said she wanted to become as famous as some of her supremely talented countrywomen.
But more, she had a quirky goal that suddenly seems very achievable.
“I think there are (five) Lees in the field this week. They’re not all from Korea, but still, lots of Lees. I want to be the most famous Lee, that’s my goal.”