BARWON HEADS, Australia (AP) — English veteran Laura Davies played her first competitive round in six months due to her mother’s illness and shot a 6-under 67 to be two shots off the lead at the LPGA-sanctioned Vic Open.
The tournament features male and female pros teeing off in alternate groups on two courses.
The 56-year-old Davies played the Creek course at the 13th Beach Golf Links. She birdied five of seven holes on her final nine — the front nine — but bogeyed her second-last to fall behind the leaders.
Davies has 87 worldwide victories.
“It was a bit weird, but a good result,” Davies said. “That’s the best I’ve putted in 20 years.”
Madelene Sagstrom shares the lead after shooting a 65 in the same group as Davies and Karrie Webb, who shot 75. South Korean Haeji Kang also shot 65.
Kang is familiar with Australian conditions after spending a large part of her teenage years on Queensland state’s Gold Coast.
Americans Haley Moore (66) and Dana Finkelstein (67) also made strong starts, taking advantage of the slight breezes that favored the morning groups on the Beach and Creek courses. Moore was tied for third place with Linnea Strom and Chien Peiyun. Finkelstein was among those tied with Davies for sixth with Christina Kim and Lin Xiyu.
Two-time major winner Stacy Lewis, making her first appearance in Australia in nearly six years, shot 74.
The fields for the men’s and women’s events are 144 players each. They’ll play one round on each of the first two days across the Beach and Creek courses, with the Creek course considered to be the easier of the two.
Spain’s Alejandro Canizares shot a 9-under 63 on the Creek course to take a two-stroke lead in the men’s tournament.
Davies, a 12-time Solheim Cup player, said she is always surprised by the reaction of the male players.
“I laugh when I’m introduced on the first tee,” she says. “I can tell that they think they are better than me. But most good male golfers are really surprised when they play with us.”
The tournament is also sanctioned by the Australasian PGA men’s tour and European Tour and the European and Australian women’s tours.
After the second round, the field will be cut to the leading 60 players plus ties for both men and women. A second cut will be made after the third round to the leading 35 players plus ties for both men and women.
The third and fourth rounds will be played on the Beach course.
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