Europeans Dominating at Ladies Masters


Overcast skies, gusty winds and thick wet roughs allowed only eight players to break par during the opening round of the Nedbank MasterCard South African Ladies Masters at the Gary Player Country Club.
Spain's Paula Marti and England's Samantha Head retained their early clubhouse lead to stay atop the leaderboard with Nicola Moult (ENG) and Elizabeth Esterl (GER) at 70 (2-under), with Marina Arruti (ESP), Lynne Brooky (NZ), Cecilie Lundgreen (NOR) and Alison Munt (AUS) at 71(1-under), the only other players out of 120 to card under-par rounds.
Marti was the first to finish at 2-under-par, 70, although bogeys on the par-4 3rd and 5th holes hampered her chances of coming in lower. At 1-under-par after 17 holes, the waif-like Spaniard hit a great approach with a wedge, leaving herself with an easy 3-foot putt for birdie back in the lead.
The 21-year old from Barcelona, a good friend of Spanish sensation Sergio Garcia, whom she partnered in the National Amateur Team Championships two years ago, recently turned professional on the Ladies European Tour.
In her first three outings, the rookie has made two cuts, finishing 11th in Australia and 20th in Taiwan. With the rest of the field struggling, Marti was obviously delighted with her round, which included an eagle on the par-5 16th.
'It's very tough if you miss the fairways, and the long rough also makes it very difficult to get up and down if you miss the greens,' commented Marti. 'I missed a few short putts for par and one for birdie but overall I'm pleased with 70, especially as I started with a bogey.'
Head found her pace after struggling in the Pro-Am round yesterday, where she shot 7-over. 'I had to be very patient out there today. I found the course tough to play during the practice rounds, but today the patient paid off and I posted my best round this season,' remarked the lanky blonde.
Head's boyfriend, European Tour pro Ignacio Garrido, is carrying her bag this week, lending his expertise to the 28-year-old, who clinched her maiden pro victory when she beat Trish Johnson in the 1999 Italian Open.
On a day that promised much, but was littered with dropped shots, Spain's Marina Arruti recorded a career first hole-in-one, when she holed the 184 yard par-3 4th hole using a 5-iron.
The South African ladies found the going a bit tough and posted scores well over par. Two-time winner this season on the LPGT, Anneri Wessels, posted a round of 3-over-par, while last week's winner of the Cape Times SA Women's Open, Vanessa Smith, finished at 13-over-par. 'I lost my game near the first and never found it again', joked a disappointed Smith of her unspectacular round.
The second round tees of tomorrow at 7:30am, and a cut to the top-60 and ties will follow immediately after play.