Rookie Lydia Ko leads in LPGA season-opener

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 11:50 24/01/2014
Lydia Ko
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CONFIDENCE KEY: A sports psychologist says golfing success as a young girl may have led to Lydia Ko's unshakable self belief in her own ability.

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Lydia Ko leads the LPGA Tour's season-opening event after the first round, proving a switch in coach, a switch in gear and a new caddie will not harm the teen's game.

The 16-year-old fired a five-under par 68 to be in a two-way tie for the lead of the Bahamas Classic on the Caribbean nation's Paradise Island. 

Playing her first professional tournament since dumping coach Guy Wilson last month, Ko narrowly missed an eagle on the par-five 18th and tapped in for her sixth birdie of the day to sign for a five-under 68 in the US$1.3 million (NZ$1.56m) tournament.

She shares the lead with Korean Meena Lee, but has 10 players just a shot back.

That group includes world no 3 Stacey Lewis who played alongside Ko and is the only player in the 108-woman field ranked higher than the Kiwi and another American, Amelia Lewis who finished runner-up to Ko at last year's New Zealand Open at Christchurch's Clearwater course.

Ko birdied the second, fourth and sixth holes to get to three under early, despite the front nine at the Ocean Club Golf Course being the tougher of the nines.

Ko dropped a shot - her only blemish - on the par-four ninth, but picked it straight back up on the 10th.

A birdie at 16 had her at four under then she just missed an eagle putt on 18 after reaching the par-five in two from out of the rough.

The scoring was low across the field and 61 players finished par or better on the island course.

The tournament's is Ko's first in her rookie season and just her second on the LPGA Tour since turning pro late last year.

But there weren't the nerves she expected."Normally I'd be more nervous than I was today," she said following her round.

"I just tried to play relaxing golf and I think that helped me give myself more opportunities for birdies.

"My mum said just to play my own game and relax."

Ko had no obvious issue with her new Callaway equipment and hit 12 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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