Teen star leads Women’s Aussie Open

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Teen star leads Women’s Aussie Open

In her quest for a second LPGA victory, amateur prodigy Lydia Ko shot to the top of the leaderboard with a 10-under 63 in the first round of the star-studded season opener of the Women’s Australian Open.

Undaunted by her rather daunting partners - her childhood idol, Michelle Wie, and world No. 1 Yani Tseng - the 15-year-old Korean-New Zealander recorded one eagle, 11 birdies and three bogeys to take an early lead in the 157-player pack at the Royal Canberra Golf Club.

“I was in a really good group to start off with,” said Ko. “I was pretty nervous when I saw the draw that I was playing with two of the big names, but I mean the weather was beautiful. I think we all enjoyed our time out there.”

Mariajo Uribe of Colombia finished second with a nine-under 64, while Korea’s Shin Ji-yai trailed one behind with an eight-under 65.

Shin’s compatriot Lee Mi-hyang tied for fourth with Ayako Uehara of Japan and Rebecca Lee-Bentham of Canada at seven-under.

Ko got off to a slow start with a bogey at the 10th hole but charged forward with four straight birdies from the 11th hole to the 14th. At the 15th hole, she carded the eagle.

She lost one on the 16th with a bogey then birdied the next two holes. She recorded five birdies and one bogey on the front nine.

Ko came off a victory in the New Zealand Women’s Open on Sunday, her third professional win.

In January 2012, at 14, she won the New South Wales Open, becoming the youngest ever winner, male or female, of a professional golf tournament. Then, seven months later, at the age of 15 and 4 months, she became the youngest amateur to win an LPGA event at the Canadian Women’s Open.

That lowered the previous record by as many as 15 months. Before her, American Lexi Thompson, 18, was the title holder with her win of the Navistar LPGA Classic in September 2011 at the age of 16 years and seven months.

Tseng, who won the event in 2010 and 2011, carded six birdies and one bogey and was tied for fifth along with five others. World No. 3 Stacy Lewis was a stroke behind and came in a tie for the 14th.

“I played very solid,” Tseng said. “I didn’t putt as good, but I’m pretty happy I shot five under for first round of the year.”

Tseng was impressed with Ko’s maturity.

“Five under is still a good day .?.?. but to Lydia five under is nothing!” she said, laughing. “I mean it was very fun to watch her play golf today.

“She still looks 15, I don’t know how she hit the ball that well. I think she pushed me up a little bit, too. .?.?. She was on fire. She could’ve shot a 12 or 13 under today.”

World No. 7 Ryu So-yeon, last year’s rookie of the year, sought to build on her past success - she finished runner-up in the event in 2012 - but got off to a slow start, tying for 56th.

Defending champion Jessica Korda, who beat out five other players including Ryu and fellow Korean Seo Hee-kyung in a playoff during the 2012 event, had a three-under. Wie was far behind at 99th, carding one-over 74.

By Moon Gwang-lip, AP [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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