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Golf - 28. February 2013.

MUNOZ EASES INTO OPENING DAY LEAD AT HSBC WOMEN’S CHAMPIONS’ NEW HOME

Spain’s Azahara Munoz quickly made herself feel right at home as the HSBC Women’s Champions settles into its new residence at the Sentosa Golf Club (SGC) in Singapore.



The 25-year-old, with just two practice rounds to familiarize herself with The Serapong course, was near flawless as she took apart the golf course with seven birdies for a seven-under 65 that sees her grab the lead at the HSBC Women’s Champions after Thursday’s opening round.



This is the first time the US$1.4 million tournament is staged at the Sentosa Golf Club, having previously been hosted at the Tanah Merah Country Club for the preceding five years.



Declared Munoz, who was in the first flight out and returned to the clubhouse with a two shot lead, “It’s one of my best opening rounds. I hit a lot of fairways and when I didn’t, I still hit the green which was the key today. I hit a lot of really good second shots so I gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities, and then obviously I converted a lot of them.”



It could have been an even bigger advantage but the 2010 LPGA Rookie of the Year narrowly missed birdie putts on her closing two holes by mere inches. Having claimed her maiden LPGA title last May at the Sybase Match Play Championship, she will begin her next round brimming with confidence.



“Last year’s win definitely helped me,” said the world No. 16. “I was out there quite a lot but I never really broke through to win. Winning has made me more comfortable when I was in the last few groups on Sunday.”



With three rounds still to play however, the prospect of lifting the prestigious HSBC Women’s Champions trophy on Sunday remains a distant target for Munoz, particularly with some of the game’s leading lights in hot pursuit of the Spaniard.



Just two strokes adrift are a cluster of five golfers, including American world No. 4 and 2012 Player of the Year Stacy Lewis. She fired a 67 and is joint-second alongside fellow American Lizette Salas, Swede Karin Sjodin, Thai Pornanong Phatlum and South Korean Sun Young Yoo.



Said Lewis, “Seeing Aza go out and shoot seven-under made me realise you could make some birdies and shoot a low number.” Lewis won a Tour-leading four tournaments last year but even she was taken aback by Munoz’s brilliant opening round adding, “I was definitely surprised to see that number. I don’t see somebody doing that every single day, so you just hang in there, hang in there, and hopefully you’re there on Sunday.”



One of the loudest cheers from the gallery was reserved for Asian superstar and top ranked Yani Tseng. The Taiwanese rolled in an unlikely eagle on the par-five 18th from off the fringe and raised her hands to celebrate with the delighted spectators.



She shot 68 and is in a tie for seventh alongside fan favourite Paula Creamer, who was involved in a car collision on Sunday in Thailand and was doubtful about her participation in the tournament.



Ending the day and her round on a high was vital, said Tseng, who is seeking to snap a year-long winless drought. “I really wanted to make eagle. That last putt has given me motivation.  It feels good and I haven’t had that feeling for a long time.”



Not everyone however, left the SGC feeling happy about their day’s effort. Defending champion Angela Stanford signed for a 76 that included a quadruple bogey eight on the par four 13th and is joint-58th.  Host Singapore’s sole representative Christabel Goh struggled to an 80 and is last in the 62-woman field.



For more information on the HSBC Women’s Champions 2013, please visit the tournament website at http://www.hsbcgolf.com/womens.Spain’s Azahara Munoz quickly made herself feel right at home as the HSBC Women’s Champions settles into its new residence at the Sentosa Golf Club (SGC) in Singapore.



The 25-year-old, with just two practice rounds to familiarize herself with The Serapong course, was near flawless as she took apart the golf course with seven birdies for a seven-under 65 that sees her grab the lead at the HSBC Women’s Champions after Thursday’s opening round.



This is the first time the US$1.4 million tournament is staged at the Sentosa Golf Club, having previously been hosted at the Tanah Merah Country Club for the preceding five years.



Declared Munoz, who was in the first flight out and returned to the clubhouse with a two shot lead, “It’s one of my best opening rounds. I hit a lot of fairways and when I didn’t, I still hit the green which was the key today. I hit a lot of really good second shots so I gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities, and then obviously I converted a lot of them.”



It could have been an even bigger advantage but the 2010 LPGA Rookie of the Year narrowly missed birdie putts on her closing two holes by mere inches. Having claimed her maiden LPGA title last May at the Sybase Match Play Championship, she will begin her next round brimming with confidence.



“Last year’s win definitely helped me,” said the world No. 16. “I was out there quite a lot but I never really broke through to win. Winning has made me more comfortable when I was in the last few groups on Sunday.”



With three rounds still to play however, the prospect of lifting the prestigious HSBC Women’s Champions trophy on Sunday remains a distant target for Munoz, particularly with some of the game’s leading lights in hot pursuit of the Spaniard.



Just two strokes adrift are a cluster of five golfers, including American world No. 4 and 2012 Player of the Year Stacy Lewis. She fired a 67 and is joint-second alongside fellow American Lizette Salas, Swede Karin Sjodin, Thai Pornanong Phatlum and South Korean Sun Young Yoo.



Said Lewis, “Seeing Aza go out and shoot seven-under made me realise you could make some birdies and shoot a low number.” Lewis won a Tour-leading four tournaments last year but even she was taken aback by Munoz’s brilliant opening round adding, “I was definitely surprised to see that number. I don’t see somebody doing that every single day, so you just hang in there, hang in there, and hopefully you’re there on Sunday.”



One of the loudest cheers from the gallery was reserved for Asian superstar and top ranked Yani Tseng. The Taiwanese rolled in an unlikely eagle on the par-five 18th from off the fringe and raised her hands to celebrate with the delighted spectators.



She shot 68 and is in a tie for seventh alongside fan favourite Paula Creamer, who was involved in a car collision on Sunday in Thailand and was doubtful about her participation in the tournament.



Ending the day and her round on a high was vital, said Tseng, who is seeking to snap a year-long winless drought. “I really wanted to make eagle. That last putt has given me motivation.  It feels good and I haven’t had that feeling for a long time.”



Not everyone however, left the SGC feeling happy about their day’s effort. Defending champion Angela Stanford signed for a 76 that included a quadruple bogey eight on the par four 13th and is joint-58th.  Host Singapore’s sole representative Christabel Goh struggled to an 80 and is last in the 62-woman field.



For more information on the HSBC Women’s Champions 2013, please visit the tournament website at http://www.hsbcgolf.com/womens.
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