13 Feb 2020 | Women's Australian Open |
The Aussies: Green, Lee live up to billing
by Mark Hayes
Hannah Green and Minjee Lee have borne the brunt of hometown expectations at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open – and today they proved just why.
Green fought hard all afternoon in breezy conditions at Royal Adelaide, showing poise with only one bogey to card a fine four-under-par 69 and share seventh, just three behind Jodi Ewart Shadoff whose 66 came in the benign early going.
Lee was in trouble for the first half of her round, but hit back with venom on her second nine to reach three under.
Of the other Aussies vying to become the first home winner of the Patricia Bridges Bowl since Karrie Webb in 2014, only Queenslander Robyn Choi and Sarah Kemp, of New South Wales, were under par after opening 72s.
Veteran Queenslanders Sarah Jane Smith and Katherine Kirk each had moments of magic in shooting even par 73s.
Su Oh hit back late with an eagle on the short par-five 17th to finish one over, but her papers were almost marked with a triple-bogey on the short 12th and another double on the shorter 16th.
Webb joined Oh at that mark, while Karis Davidson finished at two over.
Victorian amateur Steph Bunque was cruising along at -2 through eight holes, but made five late bogeys to fall to three over alongside Perth’s Whitney Hillier.
Adelaide’s Steph Na was flattened by a couple of late three-putts in her 77, while Tahnia Ravnjak battled to an 84.
Green was thrilled with the support of her home crowd, bolstered by plenty who’d made the trip across from Perth.
“I made a bit of a slip up on the par-five 9th, made a bogey there, didn’t hit a very good second shot for my lay-up, so it was in the bunker and couldn’t advance it any further,” Green said.
“That was probably the only bad shot that I actually hit, so I’m pretty pleased that it was only one that was really quite bad.”
Lee made five straight pars to start her round, but fell into trouble with a couple of uncharacteristically sloppy wedges on the long 15th, the first of three bogeys in a four-hole stretch that left her two over at the turn.
But the world No.8 caught fire in her second nine, firstly making birdie on the second, then making another four in a row from the fifth to the eight holes to scythe through the field.
“I felt like I really needed a good push to get my head out of my butt,” Lee said with a grin.
“I finished with five birdies on … my back nine, so pretty happy with how I finished.
“To finish with five birdies … I think it’s the best that I probably could have gotten out of today’s round.”
Choi again impressed after a gallant effort in last week’s ISPS Handa Vic Open yielded her best LPGA Tour finish of T6.
She carded an entertaining 72 today featuring five birdies and four bogeys.
“I’m happy to be there again … I learnt a lot last week and I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable,” Choi said.
Fellow Queenslander Kirk was another to hit back after early trouble, falling to three over when she double-bogeyed the 18th hole, her ninth.
Kirk found four second-nine birdies, including one on the closing ninth hole, to bounce back to level par.
“It was good to make a couple late, get on a bit of a roll there for a while,” Kirk said.
“Hopefully I can start like that tomorrow.”
Smith also showed signs her third tournament back after becoming a mother was looking increasingly “normal”.
“Yeah, it’s starting to feel better, slowly,” said Smith, who got a huge kick-start to her round of even-par 73 with an eagle on the long par-four 14th.
“There wasn’t much noise when it went in, but it turned out the people up ahead were trying to be quiet because there was someone teeing off at the 15th at the same time it went in,” she said.
“It was a 4-hybrid from 163m … was nice to go up and find it in the hole.”
Legendary Webb refused to use her illness this week as an excuse and seemed frustrated by her opening 74.
“I guess I had a couple of birdies … but they seemed a long way apart … with plenty of ordinary stuff (in the middle),” Webb said.
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