01 Dec 2022 | Australian Open |
Kim upstages big names to lead
by Australian Golf Media
By Tony Webeck
Twenty-one-year-old Grace Kim has produced the lowest round in a female professional event at Kingston Heath Golf Club to take a two-shot lead into day two of the Women’s Australian Open in Melbourne.
Playing in the third group of the day from the 10th tee behind the likes of Hannah Green, Jiyai Shin, Adam Scott and Cam Davis, Kim unloaded a birdie barrage from the get-go.
She was five-under through five holes before allowing her mind to wander to what score might be possible.
That predictably led to a bogey at the par-3 15th but it would prove to be her only misstep, her round of seven-under 66 giving her a two-stroke buffer from Green (68) and Shin (68) with New Zealand amateur Fiona Xu (69) one shot back in outright fourth.
When Karrie Webb was victorious at Kingston Heath in 2008, her best round didn’t come until a Sunday 67, Kim claiming the course record held by the woman whose scholarship she won four times.
A professional since September 2021, Kim won her first event on the Epson Tour in the US in May and finished fifth on the moneylist to earn promotion to the LPGA Tour in 2023.
She can lay claim to being a rookie for three more days but showed major winners and legends of the game a clean pair of heels on Thursday.
“I was definitely nervous at the start because I haven’t played a tournament in over a month now,” said Kim, who has been home in Sydney the past month.
“You’re at home, so expectations and pressures are pretty high. But I just tried to embrace it all and tried to enjoy it.
“I got more nervous as the holes went on,” she added of her opening birdie barrage.
“I was just like, Where are these birdies coming from? You know those times where it just goes in, I had one of those moments.
“I’m glad I got a good round out of the way, so it’s a good start.”
Playing two groups ahead, major champion Hannah Green began her quest for a maiden Australian Open with a five-under 68 which was matched by playing partner and 2013 champion Jiyai Shin.
The 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA champion, Green also made a hot start at Kingston Heath on Thursday.
The 26-year-old had the honour of hitting the first tee shot from the 10th tee at 7am and opened with a two-putt birdie at the par 5.
She followed that up with an 8-iron to six feet for birdie at the par-3 11th and had the course at her mercy when she got to six-under through 10 holes.
There were dropped shots at four, six and eight but birdies at seven and nine ensured the top of the leaderboard remained within sight.
“I played a match with my fiancé (Jarryd Felton) on Monday and I think I probably had the same amount of birdies on the nine, so I knew it was out there,” said Green.
“I felt like a lot of the holes on the front nine, they were short but you could still be penalised, even for hitting a good shot. I just wanted to make sure I was holding on.
“Hit a couple of sloppy shots in there, I’m not going to lie, but still really happy with the start.”
While the top three scores from day one came in the first two groups at Kingston Heath, the next five on the leaderboard made their scores at Victoria Golf Club.
Xu’s four-under 68 was the pick followed closely by home club member Stephanie Bunque, Kiwi Munchin Keh and major champions So Yeon Ryu and Ashleigh Buhai.
West Australian Minjee Lee had an eagle and two birdies in her round of two-under 70 at Victoria to be in a tie for ninth with Queensland amateur Justice Bosio, New Zealand’s Momoka Kobori, American Jenny Shin, Ya Chun Chang of Chinese Tapei and Thailand’s Chonlada Chayanun.
“I missed a few on the back nine that I probably could have made,” said Lee, whose eagle came at the par-5 eighth.
“That being said, it was pretty tough out there. I had two-under and hopefully I can have a good score tomorrow.”
Aussies Stephanie Kyriacou, Gabriela Ruffels and Sarah Kemp are all in a share of 15th at one-under while five-time winner Karrie Webb closed with two birdies in her round of five-over 77.
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