Six way lead at ANZ Masters

Tournament organisers and lead sponsors, ANZ and RACV, will be licking their lips at the events of day one of the ANZ RACV Ladies Masters. Not only is their "˜golden girl' Karrie Webb sharing the lead at the end of the opening round, several others included in pre tournament discussions have also made their mark early in the tournament. Although there are still 54 holes to play, it could be said that the event is beautifully poised.

Webb, Karen Lunn, Cassandra Kirkland, Eun-Hee Ji, Maria Hernandez and Diana Luna have the first round lead but their margin is a narrow one as just one behind is a group of seven players at 5 under including the new world number two golfer, Yani Tseng.

Day one dawned fine and calm. The golf course, ripe for the picking, was soon under attack and some of the female game's leading players were not about to wait for an invitation.

Frenchwoman Cassandra Kirkland was in the first group out in the benign conditions and took advantage of birdies on her opening three holes to finish with a round of 66. The 26 year old from St Nome la Breteche near Paris is used to fast starts being the niece of Formula One driver Eddie Cheeva. She actually experienced a ride with Cheever in her childhood years and loved doing so but other members of her family were not so enthused.

Kirkland was the roommate during her collegiate golf days at the University of Arizona of LPGA Tour golfer Erica Blasberg who died in mysterious circumstances in May of 2010. Her death was eventually ruled as suicide and it affected Kirkland badly in last year. "It was a really tough time but I now see golf a little differently. I don't get as frustrated, am calmer and am just taking it easier I guess."

Soon after, 44 year old Karen Lunn would also record a round of 66. Lunn, a former Women's British Open winner, has put together a couple of very good seasons of late on the Ladies European Tour including in 2010 when she won for the first time in 13 years. "I played well today. Last week in Melbourne was a disappointment. I went there (the Australian Women's Open) thinking I might play well but this week have made the decision to just relax and try and enjoy it more. I think I was trying a little too hard."

Next to finish on 66 was the Korean Eun Hee Ji who two years ago won the US Women's Open but in the meantime has struggled to reach those giddy heights again. Last week at the Australian Women's Open however Ji finished in a share of second, signalling that her game is on the way back and today she provided further evidence with her round of six birdies and no bogeys.

Karrie Webb produced one of the fastest starts she has made to this event in some time when she finished with a round of 66. Two bogeys and a three putt par at the last cost the seven time champion the outright lead but she was clearly happy with her day. "It is nice not to have to make up ground after the first round. There are three rounds to go but it is a good start, she said."

Webb powered home with an inward nine of 32. "When I turned at 1 under I told myself I would need a good last nine holes because I will be playing in the afternoon tomorrow and with the wind.

"I'm going to do a little practice this afternoon but not kill myself like I have the past couple of days. My swing was better today but there is still some fine tuning that needs to be done." That appears to be an ominous warning to her fellow competitors.

The last of those at 6 under is Spain's Maria Hernandez. The 24 year old from Pamplona in Spain played collegiate golf at Purdue University in the US during an amateur career which included success at the 2005 European Ladies Amateur Championship. She achieved significant success while at Purdue in Indiana winning 13 titles. Hernandez last year finished 75th in her rookie season on the LPGA Tour.

The five players above enjoyed the morning conditions and it would take until 5.15pm until they were finally joined in the lead by Italian golfer Diana Luna. Luna birdied five of her first ten holes and then picked up another at the par five 15th. She saved par from off the green at the 16th and 17th before a two putt par at the last gave her the best round of the afternoon.

It was a very similar story in 2006 when Luna also played late on day one and produced an afternoon round of 67 to share the first day lead with Scot Mhairi Mckay. A day later however Luna was penalised one shot for slow play during her second round and eventually finished well back in the event. Hopefully things will be better for her tomorrow when she gets to play in what should be perfect early conditions.

Other pre tournament considerations Laura Davies and Katherine Hull finished with rounds of 69.

So good were the conditions on the opening day that 82 players broke par. The cut therefore is already looking as if it will be 1 or 2 under.

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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