Date: January 31, 2008

Webb makes a solid start

Angus Morgan at Kingston Heath, Sportal Tournament favourite and titleholder Karrie Webb has made a solid start in trying conditions on the opening day of the 2008 Australian Open at Kingston Heath. Webb returned a one-under 72 to trail playing partner Katherine Hull by one shot and clubhouse leader, Ursula Wikstrom (70) by two. Twenty-seven-year-old Wikstrom admitted she hadn&apost expected to be out in front considering she&aposs spent the past month practicing at home in frosty Finland. “I have been mainly practicing indoors so in that way it&aposs a little bit of a surprise because I haven t played at all since Dubai which was a month ago,” said Wikstrom. Starting from the 10th, Wikstrom picked up three birdies in her first six holes and was thereabouts throughout. “My putter was working, it was working really well, so it saved me a lot and it helped me do the birdies,” she said. Bands of rain swept across Melbourne&aposs sandbelt throughout the morning, umbrellas were up and down throughout and many players failed to adjust with only 10 of the morning round contenders managing to better par. Hull, who prefers to play without a glove, was forced to use special wet-weather gloves to keep a firm hold of her clubs at the expense of &aposfeel&apos. The 25-year-old from Sunrise Beach in Queensland, for whom this event is a prelude to a new season on the US LPGA Tour, was out in 34 from the 10th and the scoreboard leader at four-under through 15 holes before a double-bogey six at the 379-metre par-four seventh. “Overall I was pretty happy with the round considering it wasn&apost picture perfect in terms of ball-striking,” said Hull. “I&aposm a little disappointed obviously on seven but it&aposs only the first day of the tournament and if I can put three good rounds together hopefully I can be holding up the trophy at the end of the week.” Webb turned square with the card and dropped a shot at the 395-metre par-four first before picking up birdies at the par-five third hole and 320-metre par-four fourth. In the refuge of the media tent after more than five hours out on the course, Webb said her ball striking had been &aposhot and cold&apos and her driving &aposinconsistent&apos, but she rated her putting as a positive 7.5 out of 10. She described the outing as a tough test of golf and concentration. “Obviously it was not the nice, warm, sunny day you would like to play for your first round of the year, but I&aposll take one-under – I&aposm pretty happy with the way things turned out,” Webb said. “I was surprised how tough some of the pin positions were today for Thursday, so again that&aposs another reason I feel pretty happy with one-under and a lot of them were at the backs of the greens which, when it s wet, made the course play that much longer.” Australia&aposs Michelle Ellis and Lindsay Wright matched Webb&aposs 72 one shot clear of Finn, Minea Blomqvist. Blomqvist had worked her way to the top of the leaderboard at three-under after six holes, but dropped four shots over the next six. Birdies at her final two holes enabled her to sign-in with an even-par 73. Playing partners Sophie Sandolo of Italy and Australian amateur champion Sunny Park floundered in the conditions and would seem to be out of contention already with rounds of 80 and 82 respectively. The persistent light rain had largely cleared by midday local time and the afternoon rounds are expected to enjoy fine conditions conducive to good scoring. English veteran Laura Davies who got away from the first at 12.45pm was even par through three holes, playing in the group ahead of Korean star Birdie Kim, Australia&aposs Nikki Garrett and Paula Marti of Spain. World No.7, Korean teenager Ji Yai Shin parred her first four holes playing in the group ahead of Davies along with local fancy Nikki Campbell and Jill McGill of the United States.