Date: February 12, 2009
Author: Angus Morgan at Metropolitan GC, Sportal

Webb first-round leader

Tournament favourite Karrie Webb holds a three-shot lead after the opening round of the 2009 Women&aposs Australian Open at Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne. The defending champion&aposs quest for a fifth Open title and second in succession on the sandbelt got away to a perfect start when she returned a dazzling seven-under 66. Spaniard Tania Elosegui and Lee Chang-Hee of South Korea share second place on 69, one shot clear of another Spaniard, Beatriz Recari and another South Korean, Kim Hye-Youn along with Clare Queen of Scotland whose 70 was bogey-free. Australian Rebecca Flood (71) is the leading amateur while last year&aposs leading amateur at Kingston Heath, Kristie Smith, returned a disappointing 79. Starting from the 10th, Webb made the most of the morning calm holing a birdie putt at the 142-metre par-three 12th before picking up shots at the back-to-back par-fives 14 and 15 then the dogleg par-four 16th to be out in 32. Birdies followed after the turn at the first and second and by this stage it was inevitable that she would pick up further shots at the following par fives, the fourth and sixth. The 34-year-old&aposs single blemish was a bogey at the 175-metre seventh when she missed a half-metre putt for par. “I&aposm definitely giving myself a few pats on the back because it&aposs a very good score around here,” said Webb. “I was pretty dialled-in and hit a lot of good shots with the wind and against the wind.” Webb missed only two greens and was rewarded for knocking her irons close throughout the round. “It&aposs the sign of a great golf course that it&aposs very penalising if you hit bad shots, but it&aposs also a fair golf course and if you hit quality shots you have a chance of shooting a good score,” she said. “I enjoy coming home and being appreciated for being here and I want to play well for the Australian crowds and the Australian fans but I want to play well for me too.” Tournament drawcard Katherine Hull, the runaway winner of last week&aposs Australian Ladies Masters at Royal Pines, absorbed two double-bogeys en route to a three-over 76. Like so many of the afternoon players, 26-year-old Hull struggled to master a stiffening southerly breeze which helped to safeguard Webb&aposs clubhouse score. Playing partner Laura Davies dropped two shots over the last three holes to finish one-over. While Webb sizzled, playing partner Gwladys Nocera, the European No.1 and the winner of the New Zealand Open just two weeks ago, staggered around the 5997-metre track in 79. Same group, same conditions, 13 shots difference. Twelve-year-old Melbourne schoolgirl Oh Su-Hyun, the youngest-ever player to compete in the Women&aposs Australian Open, was travelling well before dropping four shots in three holes on her back nine to finish with a 79. Oh admitted to being extremely nervous but aims to &aposcalm down a bit and putt better&apos on Friday in a bid to make the cut. Fellow 12-year-old Chi Youngmin finished one shot behind on 80.