Smith rides hot group to top

Sarah Jane Smith
Sarah Jane Smith is all smiles during her back-nine birdie blitz. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Something special has been brewing for Sarah Jane Smith – could this be the week that it comes to fruition?

Smith dropped seven birdies today to share the lead of the LPGA Tour’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico City after round one.

The Queenslander, who hasn’t missed a cut since mid-April, was paired with good friend Carlota Ciganda as the pair surged to five under and a two-stroke lead.

Among those in the chase pack is Melbourne’s Su Oh, who carded four birdies in her own impressive two-under-par 70 to sit T6.

Dropped shots on the eighth and ninth holes ate into Smith’s bold start and dropped her to square with the card.

But a five birdies from Smith and another three from the Spaniard ensured the mojo in their group was buzzing.

“I love playing with (Ciganda), she is so nice and we always have fun, so it absolutely makes a difference,” Smith told LPGA.com.

Despite the weariness of the Asian Swing, Smith had no trouble finding the spark to again put her back in contention where she has found herself semi-regularly in several big tournaments, including the Women’s British Open, for much of the past six months.

“There are a few bags under the eyes, a little jet lag this week for sure if you came from Japan, but it’s a lot to look forward to,” she said.

“It’s a great week here and then Naples is the season-ending event and then home – it’s exciting.”

Smith said a key point was the closing birdie to cap her bogey-free back nine.

“I was sitting in between clubs and I wanted to hit the full shot and my husband (Duane), who caddies for me, was like, ‘Just hit the little one’, so I hit the little one.

“I thought maybe I should have hit the full one,” she admitted. “But it was kind of one of those things where you kind of play smart and I was able to put the putt in for birdie so it was a good finish. It ended on a high note.”

Smith came into the week feeling rejuvenated after a long discussion with her coach Sean Foley.

“I spoke with my coach (while I was) in Japan (and) sorted things out, so it was nice to put a good round on the board and build my confidence a little,” she said.

“It was important today. With me being away (in Asia) for so long, I over-exaggerated something that we were doing and then when we got back to normal, it helped me get everything else back. It was nice to get some good feelings again.” 

The LPGA’s season-ending Tour Championship for the CME Globe is next week in Florida with Smith, Oh, Minjee Lee and Karrie Webb qualified.

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