Choi thrives again on big stage

Robyn Choi
Robyn Choi in action in Mexico.

Australia was left to rue poor putting today as the women’s World Amateur Team Champioship began in Mexico.

On the two-best-scores-count system, Robyn Choi fired a 73, Hannah Green a 74 and Karis Davidson a 75 to leave Australia at a combined three over par after round one at the Mayakoba course on the Caribbean coast.

It left the reigning champs 10 shots behind surprise leader Switzerland which banked rounds of 68 and 69, respectively, by sisters Morgane and Kim Metraux, to lead by one from favourite Korea, which played the nearby Iberostar course.

Australia was tied 11th and will need a bold move tomorrow to keep pace with the Koreans who will switch to play the statistically easier Mayakoba course.

Choi, of Royal Pines on the Gold Coast, was the most impressive of the Australian team, playing consistent golf throughout her round.

“I birdied the first but gave it back on the second with a bogey, but from then on didn’t do a lot either way,” Choi said after her one-over-par round.

“It was pretty boring, actually. I was just trying to hit greens and focus on course management – I was surprised to see I had the leading score for us.”

Australian team manager Matt Cutler said the understated Choi, 21st on the individual standings, continued to impress on the international stage and would improve again as her confidence grew.

“She did a really good job. She was in the top 10 for most of the day and very solid and that was great because conditions weren’t easy,” Cutler said.

He said the team’s performance had no massive highlights, but just lacked the spark needed to push through the tournament’s record field.

“There was nothing horrific, it was just a little ‘leaky’ today,” Cutler said.

“Hannah and Karis just left a lot of shots out there, particularly with the putter.

“Hannah was one under through nine, but doubled the tough par-three 10th and couldn’t get it going again with a couple of three-putts late that were costly.

“Karis struck the ball pretty well, especially early, but probably had three or four missed opportunities because she misjudged her clubbing in the breeze and then couldn’t make up for it on the greens, either.”

“But the fact we’re still in it at three over shows you how tough it was and given how many shots we left out there, hopefully we can push through a bit tomorrow.”

Choi said the team had discussed plans to “work back into the tournament” tomorrow.

“We were just saying that if we can get back to even par after the second round, we shouldn’t be too far out of things,” she said.

But the day belonged to the Swiss team, led by the sisters Metraux who both attend Florida State University in the United States.

“I actually had a bad nine to start with a double bogey but I made a 90-foot putt for an eagle on the fifth hole, my 14th,” Morgane,19, said. “I just focused and the score just came.

Older sister Kim, 21, posted four birdies and a bogey for her 3-under 69 and was visibly proud of the team’s accomplishment – the equal lowest first-round total in the tournament’s 52-year history.

“It’s always good to see your country’s name,” Kim said. “It’s always good at the top of the leaderboard.”

The Republic of Korea, which won the Espirito Santo Trophy in 2010 and 2012 and previously in 1996, posted a 6-under 138 on 68 from Hyun Kyung Park and a 70 from Hye Jin Choi, who was the low amateur at the 2016 US Women’s Open.

“I didn’t expect to be tied for the lead on the individual leaderboard, but I am very happy,” said the 16-year-old Park. “I am really willing to make history and win the championship as Korea did in 2010 and 2012 because those players have had great success on the LPGA Tour and I want to follow in their footsteps so that other juniors can look up to me the same way I look up to them.”

In third position at 142, five strokes behind Switzerland was Japan. Nasa Hatoaka and Hina Arakaki both shot 1-under 71.

The People’s Republic of China was fourth at 1-under 143, followed by host Mexico in fifth at even-par 144. Thailand was sixth at 145. Tied for seventh at 146 were Austria, Chinese Taipei, Ireland and USA. Australia, Ecuador, England, Italy, New Zealand, Norway and Puerto Rico were tied for 11th at 147.

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