Kirk takes early lead in Australian Open

ADELAIDE, Australia: Australia’s Katherine Kirk posted an eight-under 65 to lead a large foreign contingent in the LPGA/ALPG co-sanctioned Australian Open at Royal Adelaide on Thursday.
Kirk carded eight birdies in a morning round and watched the afternoon players struggle in windy conditions to hold a two-stroke lead after the opening 18 holes.
Kirk, a 14-year professional who has made her living in the United States on the LPGA Tour, was outside the top 100 on the money list last year and has not won a big tournament since 2010.
But she rammed home three consecutive birdies and carried the momentum through to the finish in benign conditions to miss only four greens with a total of 24 putts.
“I think it would be my best win ever really,” Kirk said. “As a kid, you dream about winning your own national championship.
“I’ve won a Canadian Open, that felt pretty good but being Aussie, being at home, in front of my family, I’d probably be bawling my eyes out.”
Kirk leads the way, ahead of Americans Jane Park and Marissa Steen and Taiwan’s Min Lee and South Korea’s Chella Choi at six-under.
Scotland’s Michele Thomson is a further shot back with Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum and American Lizette Salas. New Zealand’s world number one Lydia Ko began rustily with a two-under 71, finishing with a birdie, and complaining later that “the putts just would not drop”.
But most of the marquee names were near the top of the leaderboard, including top-10 stars Canada’s Brooke Henderson on four-under, and South Korean Jang Ha-Na on three under.
World number two Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand played in the tougher conditions and began with a one-under 73 to remain in contention.
 — AFP