Former world number one Jiyai Shin of South Korea produced eight birdies in an opening round of seven-under-par 65 to claim a two-shot lead in the ActewAGL Canberra Classic at Royal Canberra Golf Club in the Australian capital on Friday.
Although she started the round in slight drizzle, Shin shone from her first hole, sinking a birdie putt from eight feet on the par-4 10th just after a trio of kangaroos had bounded across the fairway.
Then, after making a masterful up and down from the back of the 11th green, she birdied the par-4 12th, followed by two-putt birdies on the long 15th and 18th for a back-nine total of four-under-par.
As the temperatures warmed up to 33C, so did Shin’s golf. She birdied the first, second, fifth and sixth holes to reach eight-under-par, before dropping a shot at the par-3 seventh, after she uncharacteristically thinned her chip shot.
“I played in the morning and the conditions were beautiful. I really enjoyed it. Tomorrow I’m playing in the afternoon, so I’m looking forward to more birdies,” said the world number 26, who is looking for her 50th professional title in Canberra. “We had a lot of people watching in the galleries for the whole 18 holes. I really enjoyed that.”
Shin won the 2013 Women’s Australian Open at Royal Canberra and she added: “I have great memories at this golf course and I think that Canberra has been very nice to me. I want to stay here! It changed a lot since I last came here five years ago. It’s quite a narrow course and a few holes are quite tight, but it makes you more focused and I like the challenge.”
A late surge kept last week’s Oates Vic Open champion Minjee Lee of Australia (above) in touch and she lies in joint second alongside Leticia Ras-Anderica of Germany and Norwegian rookie Karoline Lund on five-under-par 67.
After a slow start, Lee said: “I probably didn’t hit it as solid as I wanted to but made some up and downs on the par fives and obviously holed the last putt to have a bit of a surge on the back nine.”
Ras-Anderica, whose grandparents live in Canberra, said: “I’m very pleased with my round. It started off a little bit shaky and I made a three-putt on my first hole but then I made an eagle on my first par five, the 15th, which got me back into the game.”
Dame Laura Davies had been two ahead after playing the back nine in six-under-par 30 and she made a seventh birdie on the second hole, but then bogeyed the fifth and double-bogeyed the par-3 eighth to slip back into an eight-way share of fifth on four-under-par.
Davies said: “I putted great and the hole looked like a bucket for the front nine. It couldn’t have been any less really, I holed all my birdie putts, so it was really good, but the front nine just cost me a bit and I don’t really know why. It was just one poor shot.
“If it had pitched in the bunker, it would have been okay, but it pitched on the back of the bunker and shot down the hill and I had an impossible shot and then the third shot was a little bit unlucky. I tried to putt it and it hit a bit of grass and shot up in the air.
“Jiyai’s been playing great, so you could see her shooting a couple of 67s and what’s that, let’s say 17-under, that wouldn’t surprise me. So, if I shot three 68s, I wouldn’t win, so I’ve got to get better.”
European number one Georgia Hall opened with a three-under-par 69 and watched Jiyai’s putting masterclass at close quarters. Hall said: “She simply did nothing wrong the whole time. It has made me think I need to practise my putting, as I thought I was a good putter.”
First round play was suspended for approximately 40 minutes from 3.40pm local time due to the threat of thunder storms in the area and play continued in overcast and humid conditions.
The second round is scheduled to begin at 7.30am local time on Saturday and the leader, Shin, will tee off at 13:03.