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Five-time winner Karrie Webb 2 strokes behind at Australian Open

In this June 27, 2018,  photo, Karrie Webb, of Australia, watches her tee shot on the 17th hole during a practice round for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship golf tournament at Kemper Lakes Golf Course in Lake Zurich, Ill. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)
In this June 27, 2018, photo, Karrie Webb, of Australia, watches her tee shot on the 17th hole during a practice round for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship golf tournament at Kemper Lakes Golf Course in Lake Zurich, Ill. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)
Associated Press

ADELAIDE, Australia – Karrie Webb’s bid for a sixth Women’s Australian Open title began with a 5-under 67 at The Grange, leaving her two strokes behind first-round leaders Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Wei-Ling Hsu.

English player Ewart Shadoff had a bogey-free 65 in calm morning weather Thursday, which included four consecutive birdies from the seventh through 10th holes. Hsu had it tougher in the afternoon but still managed five back-nine birdies.

“Perfect conditions … I hit some really close shots and holed some good putts,” Ewart Shadoff said. “Overall, I just hit the ball well.”

Defending champion Jin Young Ko was among those tied for sixth with a 68, along with Americans Kristen Gillman and Jackie Stoelting.

Former No. 1 Lydia Ko had four bogeys in a 71. Current No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn had two double bogeys and two bogeys in a 76. British veteran Laura Davies shot 74, along with American Morgan Pressel.

Ewart Shadoff is ranked 59th in the world and has made steady improvement in recent years without winning a tournament as a professional. She has twice represented Europe in the Solheim Cup.

The 44-year-old Webb played just eight tournaments last year and missed the cut in the U.S. Open and British Open.

Webb has not played full-time since 2017. She spent four months in Australia last year at her Townsville, north Queensland home base, and when she teed it up last week in Barwon Heads in the Vic Open, it was her first competitive outing for almost eight months.

Webb, who finished tied for third with Madelene Sagstrom and Bronte Law, started on the back nine Thursday and was 4-under through eight holes. Her only bogey came on the par-4 sixth hole.

“It’s not easy to get off to a good start and be in position from day one and not feel like you’re catching up on Friday,” Webb said. “I hit some good shots and saw some putts go in, so I felt really comfortable there for about 11 holes.

“Then it got a little scratchy there through the middle. But I hung in there and managed to birdie the eighth, which was my second-last hole, which is a nice way to finish. I made the most of the opportunities I had.”

Webb won previous Australian Opens in 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2014.

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