Ko Off to Hot Start in Australia


New Zealand's Lydia Ko fired a 10-under 63 to take the opening-round lead in the Women's Australian Open. The LPGA Tour's season opener began Thursday at Royal Canberra Golf Club.

Ko, an amateur who won the Canadian Women's Open last August, is coming off her third professional title after winning last week's New Zealand Women's Open. The 15-year-old shot 10-under 206 at Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch for a one-stroke victory over American Amelia Lewis.

Ko got off to an inauspicious start at Royal Canberra. Beginning her round on the 10th hole, she bogeyed the par-4 but then reeled off four straight birdies followed by an eagle on the par-5 15th (her sixth hole). After another bogey on the par-4 16th, she birdied the last two holes on her front nine to make the turn in 6-under 30.

Ko pressed ahead on the home half, posting four birdies in the first six holes before carding a bogey on the par-3 eighth (her 17th). But the teenage sensation closed out the round with a birdie on the par-4 ninth for a 33 on the home half.

She was in the marquee threesome with No. 1-ranked Yani Tseng and American Michelle Wie, a grouping that fired Ko up. ''I was in a really good group to start off with,'' she told reporters. ''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.''

Colombia's Mariajo Uribe also had a fine outing, carding seven birdies and an eagle for a spotless 9-under 64, while another stroke back is Jiyai Shin.

Japan's Ayako Uehara, South Korean Mi Hyang Lee and Canada's Rebecca Lee-Bentham share fourth after 66s. Italy's Giulia Sergas is in solo seventh following a 67.

Tseng had a 68 and Wie, who missed the cut in 10 of 23 starts last year for her worst season as a touring pro, opened with a 74. The Hawaiian would have had a decent round, carding six birdies and three bogeys. But a nine on the par-5 18th (her ninth hole) led to her 2-over total.

Tseng was impressed with Ko's play. ''Five-under is still a good day . . . but to Lydia 5-under is nothing,'' Tseng said. ''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.''

American Angela Stanford joined Tseng at 68 as did Spain's Beatriz Recari and Aussies Katherine Hull-Kirk, Kristie Smith and Sara Jane Smith.

The LPGA's 2012 Player of the Year, Stacy Lewis, shot a 69 to join seven other players - including fellow Americans Austin Ernst, Vicky Hurst and Lizette Salas - in a tie for 14th after the first round of the 72-hole event.

Defending champion Jessica Korda opened with a 70.

For complete scoring, visit http://www.lpgascoring.com/public/Leaderboard.aspx.


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