Queenslander Katherine Kirk found herself alone in the lead at four under par after 11 holes of the opening round of the ANA Inspiration earlier today, but stumbled on her back nine to finish at 1 under par and finds herself in a tie for 16th place just three shots off the lead held by American Ally McDonald.
Kirk started her round from the 10th tee on Thursday afternoon at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, and quickly found herself in red figures after a birdie at her opening hole and another at the 12th hole.
Another rare birdie at the difficult par 3 17th hole, and a par 5 at the 18th hole saw Kirk make the turn in 33, and another birdie at the par 5 second hole meant that Kirk was all alone at the top of the leaderboard at -4.
Unfortunately for Kirk she went on to make 3 bogeys in 4 holes from her 12th hole to fall back to -1, but finished solidly in the more difficult afternoon conditions to sign for a 1-under par 71.
Despite her disappointing back 9, Kirk was comfortably the best of the Australians in the first major championship of the year in the golfing calendar.
Minjee Lee was the next best of the Aussies, the world No.3 and one of the pre-tournament favourites finished with a disappointing bogey 6 at her final hole to shoot a 1-over par 73, but importantly Lee is just 5 shots off the lead and still well in contention.
Of the other Australians competing this week, mum-to-be Sarah Jane Smith finished at 2-over par carding a 74, however the rest of the Aussie contingent have a lot of work ahead of them tomorrow to make the 36-hole cut with Sarah Kemp at +4, Su Oh +5, Karrie Webb +6 and Hannah Green +8. tomorrow.
Kirk's record in major championships in recent years has been solid, the 37-year-old narrowly missed out at the 2017 Evian Masters eventually finishing in a tie for 3rd place, and came into this tournament full of confidence after closing brilliantly last week at the Kia Classic with a 65.
Of the other big names competing this week, former world No.1 Lexi Thompson and Jin Young Ko are in a group of four players tied for second place at -3, while Lydia Ko and Jess Korda are at -2 and world No.1 Sung Hyun Par and Brooke Henderson among those at -1.
Completed round 1 scores and round 2 pairings are available HERE
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