Nicole Broch Larsen, Marion Ricordeau and Brooke Henderson fired opening rounds of six-under-par 67 at Royal Pines Resort on Thursday to share the first round lead at the RACV Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast in Queensland.
World no.11 Henderson was quick out of the blocks making birdies on her first three holes from the 10th. With further birdies at the par-5 15th and 18th, she reached the turn in five-under 32 and picked up another stroke at the first. However a stumble at the par-4 sixth hole where she missed the fairway and made bogey sent her back to five-under, before yet another birdie at the par-5 ninth hole saw her take the clubhouse lead at six-under-par.
“It's a good start and I hit the ball extremely well today and was able to capitalise on quite a few birdie opportunities. So, hopefully I will continue to do that in the next three days,” said the 18-year-old Canadian, who won the LPGA Cambia Portland Classic last year aged 17. “It's a great start to this tournament and going into this week, my goals, they're off to a fast start because I'm normally kind of leaving it to the last minute to climb the leader board.”
Broch Larsen, 22, from Hillerød in Denmark, is the third highest ranked player in the Rolex Rankings competing this week behind Henderson and former world number one Jiyai Shin.
Like Henderson, the 2015 Ladies European Tour Players’ Player of the Year had seven birdies and one bogey in her round, despite playing with an injured hand.
“I feel like my game is getting better and better going these three weeks down here in Australia,” said the third year LET player, who won the Helsingborg Open last year.
“With my preparation yesterday, I didn't really know what to expect because I couldn't really practise and I didn't know how bad this hand was today but it was a good round even though I started with a bogey.”
Larsen struck her hand on a ceiling fan earlier in the week but an x-ray confirmed there were no broken bones. She is playing pain-free but with heavy strapping.
Her recent short game work is paying off and she continued: “I was not happy with the way my 2015 season ended. I struggled with my swing a little bit but have worked really hard in my off season and it felt really solid today. I have also been working really hard on my short game, normally I'm quite a good ball striker but I can definitely earn a lot of strokes in my wedge and short game. Today I had three up and downs from the bunker and two good saves outside the greens.”
The early starters made the best of the benign morning conditions, but a moderate northerly breeze picked up later which dried out the greens, making them much firmer for the afternoon wave.
Ricordeau’s blemish-free round containing six birdies was comfortably the best of the later starters. She made four birdies on the back nine at the 10th, 12th, 13th and 18th and added two more at the first and the fourth holes.
Former world number one Jiyai Shin is a stroke behind the leaders on five-under-par alongside England’s Lauren Taylor, Swede Camilla Lennarth and Ssu-Chia Cheng from Chinese Taipei, while Australian Stacey Keating and Nontaya Srisawang of Thailand share eighth on four-under-par.
Friday’s second round will commence at 6.45am local time.