Lydia Ko hole-by-hole updates at NZ Open

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 13:06 08/02/2013
Lydia Ko
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
STARTING OUT: Lydia Ko tees off during the first round of the Women's New Zealand Open at Clearwater.

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Good morning from the Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch, where Stuff.co.nz is bringing you hole-by-hole updates of Lydia Ko's first round at the New Zealand Women's Open.

The 15-year-old world No 1 amateur is attempting to become the first Kiwi to win the revamped open, co-sanctioned by the European and Australian professional tours.

At No 38 in the overall world rankings (pros and amateurs), the teen golf prodigy is the third highest ranked golfer in the 144-strong field and all eyes will be on her.

She's adorned all the promotional billboards and advertising this week - 'Ready, Set, Ko' has been the theme - but how will she handle the pressure?

There are overcast conditions early this morning and very little wind so hopefully we'll see some birdies.

Ko is playing in a headline group that features top-20 player Angela Stanford from the United States, the highest ranked player here this week, and European No 1 Carlota Ciganda from Spain.

Ciganda won the European Tour's order of merit in her rookie season last year, the first player to do so since the great Englishwoman Laura Davies in 1985. Davies is also in the field this week.

18TH HOLE

Ko is in the clubhouse at two-under after a par at the last. Story of her day really ... Great drive, excellent approach but the putt from eight feet never looked likely.

She holds the clubhouse lead with her 70 though. Ciganda in with 74 and Stanford 78.

17TH HOLE

After a rare drive that misses the fairway, Ko makes a great par save, chipping from well below the level of the green at the short-ish par four. Remains at two-under.

16TH HOLE

Another magnificent iron across the water at the par-three 16th leaves Ko with six feet for birdie but it horseshoes out! Just no luck with the putter. Still at two-under.

Ciganda, meanwhile, pulled her shot left into the hazard, chopped her third into the bunker and walked off with a triple bogey six. That will ruin a round. One-under quickly becomes two-over.

15TH HOLE

Ko finally drops a putt, nailing a nine-footer for par after finding the fairway bunker on 15 and duffing her second to leave herself about 40m from the green. Nice save.

14TH HOLE

Ko with her fifth birdie of the day, and the third from four par-fives, nailing a four-footer at the 14th after another nice approach shot from 90m. Back to two-under.

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Ciganda shows us a glimpse of the talent that sees her come here as European No 1, going for the green in two and hammering a three wood from about 210m to four feet. Brilliant eagle to go from one-over to
one-under.

The Spaniard has been hitting three wood off most tees and has the length to do it. Australian Tamara Johns has made great start to be three-under through 14 holes and the sole leader.

13TH HOLE

After bombing another drive - there was probably a hint of frustration in that swing - Ko only had 50m into the par-fourth 13th green (downwind and tees up) but her approach was short and she missed the putt. Remains at one-under.

12TH HOLE

Oh dear, a bogey. The Ko ballstriking machine is in autopilot. Drives splitting the fairways, approach shots at the pins, if only her putter would heat up. Another great birdie chance from about 12 feet uphill, but she doesn't hit it, and then misses a two-footer for par.

Back to one-under but things could be, and should be, looking so much better for her.

11TH HOLE

Another par three, another delightful long iron from Ko who plops the ball six feet away from the pin but misses the birdie putt. Could quite easily have started the back nine eagle-birdie. Stanford makes another bogey and is back to five-over. Ciganda is at even par after birdie at the 10th.

10TH HOLE

Ko makes another birdie at the par-five 10th, a tap in after a 10-foot eagle attempt caught the hole but didn't drop. Her second, from about 210m, went gun barrel straight at the pin and typified her excellent ball-striking so far.

And, wait for it, at two-under Ko now leads on her own.

9TH HOLE

Ko hits her tee shot at the daunting par-three ninth right over the flag but misses a downhill putt for birdie, paying the speed too much respect.

Still, she has turned in one-under 35 and is striking the ball solidly. Ciganda turns in 37 and Stanford 40.

8TH HOLE

You'd take four at this tough hole every day of the week but Ko goes better with an excellent birdie. Another sizzling drive and top approach from about 120m, before slotting a 12-footer. She's back in the red with her third birdie of the day, and one shot off the leaders.

Stanford finally has some luck, chipping in for birdie to get to four-over, while Ciganda makes it consecutive bogeys after finding the green side bunker. She's now one-over par.

7TH HOLE

Ko never really gave her birdie putt a chance and has to settle for a par-four. Ciganda short-sided herself and bogeyed, dropping back to even-par, alongside Ko. Stanford with another three-putt to fall to five-over. The highest ranked player in the field is currently last. Seven players are tied at two-under, including Laura Davies.

Ko is striking the ball really well in the wind and has only really made two mistakes, a missed putt and a duffed sand shot, which have led to bogeys.

6TH HOLE

Pars all around at the par-four sixth, with nobody able to convert short second shots to a generous pin placement into birdies.

American Kris Tamulis and South African Connie Chen are the early leaders, at two-under through six holes.

5TH HOLE

A bad mistake from Ko at the fifth has led to a bogey on the par-five. She was green-side in two but thinned a bunker shot and it went sailing over the green, leaving a tough chip for her fourth. She
couldn't get up and down and drops back to even par.

No such troubles for Ciganda, who found the green with a three-wood from 235m for her second and two-putted for birdie. She's now at one-under.

4TH HOLE

Ko is in red figures, rolling in a 12-footer for birdie at the par-three fourth. Looked like the putt was going to pull up short, but dropped in with its final roll, much to the delight of the gallery which is building nicely despite a cool breeze. Pars for the two pros in the group.

3RD HOLE

Regulation par for Ko at the dogleg right par-four third, not a long hole but requiring an accurate approach to an undulating green. She had the longest birdie attempt, 15 feet, but it slid by.

Ciganda also parred but there was further trouble for Stanford, with another three-putt. She's four-over through three and doesn't look happy.

2ND HOLE

Ko bounces back immediately with a lovely birdie at the short par-five second. She got unlucky when a hybrid from 170m rolled back off the green and into the bunker, but she showed delightful touch to hit her third shot to about two feet. That's gimme range for her.

Ciganda also birdies after a four-iron from 190m pulled up just short of the green, but it presented a regulation up-and-down for birdie. As for Stanford, despite another top drive she made double bogey seven, shanking her second 20-handicapper style then three putting from 10 feet. The top-20 player is three-over.

1ST HOLE

A nervous start for the headline grouping with a trio of bogeys at the par-four first. Ko drove into the fairway bunker, hit a rescue over the green, and after a lovely chip missed a four-footer for par. Stanford and Ciganda missed slightly longer par putts. Ouch.

- Fairfax Media

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