Date: April 26, 2019
Author: Justin Falconer

Aussie stars light up LA

Australia’s brightest stars have come to play this week in Tinseltown, with Hannah Green, Minjee Lee and Sarah Jane Smith shining on the first day of the LA Open.

West Australian Green’s opening 6-under 65 will see her sleep on a share of the overnight lead alongside American Stacy Lewis.

Just one shot back is fellow sandgroper Lee, the World No. 4 signing for a 66 of her own at Wilshire Country Club to be in outright third.

And soon-to-be mum Smith was one of nine players to return a 3-under 68 in the opening round, enough for a share of fifth on the standings.

The Aussie trio didn’t make a bogey between them on Thursday and rising star Green caught fire in the middle of her round, rattling off six birdies in a nine-hole stretch from the 6th onwards.

“On the 1st hole I had a tough par putt, six-footer kind of sliding right-to-left and I made that putt,” said Green after her round.

“I really think that set the tone for the rest of the day. I feel like if I missed that maybe I wouldn't have had the same mindset going into the rest of the round, even though it's only the 1st hole.

“My putter was really hot. I was really happy with how I rolled it. I can't really say that I hit putts where I was really disappointed in that streak, so I feel like everything is slowly getting together. I guess today it showed.”

In her second full year on the LPGA Tour, Green is still hunting a debut title on the world’s top women’s circuit after graduating from the Symetra Tour in 2017 on the back of three wins.

But the 22-year-old says she’s feeling more comfortable than ever on and off the course in the early stages of the new season.

“It’s just nice to come back to somewhere familiar and kind of know, even though it's not always easy to do, just to know where to not mishit it stuff like that,” said Green.

“I think that's what makes the difference in making a birdie or making a par.

“When I get to the course I'm not really good at remembering holes until I get there, so it's just nice to be able to be like, ’I hit 3-wood off this tee last year. When the tee was moved up, maybe I went for it’. Just little things like that.”

Last week’s winner on tour, Brooke Henderson, joins Smith in the pack of players at 3-under, alongside Korea’s Inbee Park and China’s Shanshan Feng.

Further down the leaderboard is Katherine Kirk, her even-par 71 on Thursday enough for a share of 37th.

Meanwhile, Su Oh will need to improve on her opening 2-over 73 if she’s to make the weekend action, the Victorian currently sitting at T73.