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Hot Putter Keeps Ko In Contention At Kia

A hot putter kept Lydia Ko alive in the opening round of the Kia Classic in California (Photo: Getty Images)
Rebecca Artis is the lone Australian in red figures after the opening round of the LPGA Tour event in California where Lydia Ko putted her way into the top 10 with a sizzling back nine.

Artis signed for a 1-under-par 71 to be mid field on an opening day which sees three players share the lead at 6-under and four more a shot back and T4 on a bunched leaderboard.

Two birdies and a bogey at the Aviara course see Artis the best of the six Australians in the field though New Zealand’s Ko is among the group at 4-under and sharing eighth.

Ko was hot with the flatstick Thursday amassing just 25 strokes on the greens on her way to a 68.

A pedestrian outward nine was followed by fireworks on the inward half, five birdies erasing her two bogeys and a birdie to the turn.

“I would say I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key,” she said after her round.

“Just to be able to finish under par after an average front nine was a good turnaround.”

On a day which saw 58 players in red figures it was a disappointing start for Minjee Lee, Katherine Kirk, Sarah Jane Smith, Su Oh and Hannah green.

Both Kirk and Lee are 1-over and T85 while Smith and Oh are a shot further back and T100. Hannah Green endured a horror start to her day and never recovered on her way to a 76 that included three bogeys and a double against a lone birdie.

Hee Young Park, Jackie Stoelting and former European Solheim Cup star Caroline Hedwall hold the lead at 6-under, Hedwall the surprise performer after a form slump of almost three years.

The talented Swede incurred a wrist injury in 2014 while lifting luggage at a US airport and her game and confidence went into a downward spiral as she tried to play through the pain.

However, she showed signs of life with some low rounds while in Australia recently and today’s bogey free 66 suggests she is back on track.

“It's just all about trust and having self-confidence,” she told the LPGA website after her round.

“I feel like I've gained that now. I had good practice sessions the last couple of days, and it's starting to pay off. That's really nice.”  

Co-leaders Park and Stoelting were also pleased with their play, Stoelting in contention at the tournament for the second year in a row and Park taking just 29 putts in her opening round.


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