JANICE Moodie, the sole Scot in the field, is only four shots off the lead after making an encouraging start in the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne.
The 38-year-old, who has played most of her career in Catriona Matthew’s shadow, shot a level-par 73 on a composite course to end the opening day just outside the top 20.
Moodie started the new LPGA Tour campaign – the US-based circuit moves on to Thailand and Singapore over the next few weeks – with a mixed bag.
Her scorecard was sprinkled with four birdies but also contained two bogeys and a double-bogey, the latter being a sore six at the 18th.
Moodie, who is bidding for a first title triumph in nearly a decade, is not joining Matthew in either Thailand or Singapore when the Scottish No 1 starts her new season.
American Stacy Lewis and home player Sarah Kemp set the pace in Melbourne after they carded matching 69s.
Lewis, a member of last year’s losing Solheim Cup team in Ireland, made her good start with some help from Greg Norman, an honorary Royal Melbourne member.
Lewis plays at Norman’s course, the Medalist in Florida, and she said that a few of the LPGA players who are members there had sought advice from the Australian ahead of this week’s event.
“We got some tips from him,” she said. “He said to be below the hole and if we were above the hole make sure the next one was below it. And always take the shorter club if you are in between. I used that.”
Taiwan’s Yani Tseng, the world No 1 and defending champion, opened with a 70 – four better than Lydia Ko, the New Zealand 14-year-old who recently became the youngest-ever winner of a professional event.