Date: July 26, 2019
Author: Justin Falconer

Kirk heats up on scorcher at Evian

Katherine Kirk has picked up where she left off at the Evian Championship, the Queenslander leading the Australian quintet after day one.

Kirk finished T3 in 2017 and T10 last year at this tournament and a Thursday 1-under-70 leaves her as the only Australian under par through 18 holes.

The temperatures soared above 30 degrees in Evian as Paris recorded its hottest day ever, the mercury hitting 42.6 degrees in the French capital.

Kirk is six back of outright leader Paula Creamer, the American running hot in the warmest part of the day – France’s hottest day on record – on her way to a 64.

Koreans Inbee Park, JY Ko and Mi Hyang Lee are joined at 6-under by American Brittany Altomare. Lee was the only of the top five on the standings to tee off in the afternoon.

Australian Kirk was out in the fourth last group of the day and she finished in style, reaching the par-5 18th in two for a nerve-free two-putt birdie.

“It’s a fun golf course because you have to pay attention on every tee shot and every approach shot,” Kirk said.

“I like that sort of golf where you have to focus.

“Today was kind of an outback adventure, we were all over the map. So I’m happy that I’m in the red.”

Kirk started the back nine with birdie but the highlight came the hole before, a monster putt dropping on nine for eagle.

“I hit a good drive and crushed a 3-wood,” Kirk said, “It rolled on the back part of the green and the pin was down the front and I drained like a 66-footer. So that was a bonus!”

In the group behind Kirk, Sarah Kemp was the only Australian of our quintet to make par up the 1st on Thursday and she used that momentum to card a gritty opening 1-over 72.

The Sydneysider picked up a stroke with birdie on the downhill – to put it lightly – 2nd hole, before a string of ten straight pars.

Playing in the third last group of the day Kemp was tested by the late breeze, bogeys on 13 and 16 a far from disappointing finish to her opening round.

“It was pretty solid,” Kemp said.

“I hit the ball well, I probably didn’t hit it as close as I would have liked because I had a lot of long putts.

“The wind came up, we played the last four holes and it just came out of nowhere.

“But to just make two bogeys around here it’s not too bad. Solid golf.”

Minjee Lee didn’t hit any great heights on day one but at 1-over through 16 holes – including a run of 11 straight pars – the World No.4 seemed to be cruising.

But disaster struck when she went long over the green with her second into the par-4 17th and just as a seven late in the day hurt her former state teammate Hannah Green, it torpedoed Lee.

The 23-year-old missed a mid-ranger for a double, making par up the last on her way to a 4-over-75.

“I hit it over the back and there was like one tree that was right in my line,” Lee said.

“I hit one of the super lowest limbs and it just stayed there. Then I hit it again and didnt hit it hard enough and it went backwards.”

By the end of next week’s AIG Women’s British Open, Lee will have played nine of the past 11 weeks on the LPGA Tour.

“This week and next are going to be my third and fourth weeks in a row,” Lee said.

“So it’s probably right on my max. I’ll be on the tired side. But I feel like I’ve given myself the best chance.

“I probably haven’t been hitting it that well in the past couple of weeks,”

“My only goal was to go out and have fun today and I felt like I was smiling the whole way round and I had a pretty good attitude. I’m proud of myself for that.”

The afternoon’s stifling temperatures didn’t bring the best out of Su Oh, the Victorian battling to a first round 3-over-74 that was made far worse by one bad swing.

The World No.84 made a seven of her own, this one coming on the par-4 4th, after losing her drive out of bounds.

But Oh knuckled down from that point and after a birdie at the par-5 9th she made the turn at 3-over, the 23-year-old grinding out an even-par back nine to stay alive in the year’s fourth major.

Hannah Green led the Australians out on course in the morning and it was a rocky return to golf for the game’s newest major champion early on.

Green bogeyed three of her opening four holes but rallied brilliantly, rattling off four birdies in a ten-hole stretch before her second shot on the par-5 18th settled in a divot.

Green couldn’t avoid the pond that protects the green and walked off with a double-bogey seven on her last hole of the day, dropping her back to 1-over for the day.

“Getting on the first tee I wasn’t too nervous until I hit the first tee shot. I was like ‘Oh wow, that’s not exactly how I imagined that coming out of the air!’,” Green said.

“Three-over through four wasn’t exactly what I was going for but I was really proud that I got it at least back to -1 with one to play.

“I’ve still got plenty of golf left to be played in this championship.”

Friday’s tee times have been brought forward by half an hour, to ensure the second round is completed by tomorrow night. Storms are forecast for the weekend.