Melbourne, Australia (SportsNetwork.com) - Ilhee Lee fired a first-round, 5- under 68 on Thursday and that was good enough to give here a 1-shot lead over rookie Ariya Jutanugarn at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open.
Lee has one career victory on the LPGA Tour at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic back in 2013. Jutanugarn is off to a great start in her rookie season with an 11th place finish at the season-opening Coates Golf Championship and a tie for second at the Pure Silk-Bahams LPGA Classic two weeks ago.
Jutanugarn carded a 4-under 69 on the Composite Course at Royal Melbourne Golf Club and she sits alone in second heading into day two.
Seventeen-year-old and world No. 1 Lydia Ko, who knows something about rookie success following her huge year last season, is tied for third after shooting a 3-under 70. Joining Ko there is Alena Sharp and Min Seo Kwak.
Karrie Webb, who won here on her home soil last season, finished the first round with an even-par 73 and she is tied for 23rd.
On a day that did not yield many low scores, with just 22 players finishing the first round under par, Lee started off somewhat slow before turning it on late.
Lee began with five straight pars from No. 1 and then rolled in her first gain of the week at the par-4 sixth. Lee then made three more pars from seven to finish her front nine at 1-under.
After making the turn, Lee caught fire. She drained four birdies in a six-hole stretch from No. 10, with pars coming on 12 and 14. Following her fifth birdie on No. 15, Lee coasted to the finish with another trio of pars from 16 to grab the outright lead at the end of round one.
"I focused on every shot because I didn't have a bogey today," said Lee. "I had a little bit of a cold yesterday morning so I had no expectations for today and this week ... My second shots hitting from the fairway to the green worked good today, so that's why I had no problem to make pars today."
Jutanugarn, starting on the back nine, got off to a fast start before tapering off later in her round. Over her first five holes, Jutanugarn poured in four birdies on 10, 12, 13 and 14 to go along with a bogey on the par-4 11th.
Following a trio of pars from 15, Jutanugarn made the turn in style with a birdie on 18.
Jutanugarn made three more pars from No. 1 before tripping to her second bogey on four. She got that shot back right away, however, with a birdie on the par-3 fifth.
A pair of pars on six and seven preceded Jutanugarn's seventh birdie on No. 8, which got her to minus-5, but her third bogey at the last dropped the rookie back one to finish her first round.
"It was really nice today," Jutanugarn said. "My tee shots were good and my iron shots really helped me a lot. But I missed some fairways because the course is really challenging and I couldn't hit all drivers today."
Ko, like Lee, rolled in five straight pars from No. 1 to start her round before making a birdie on six. After making the turn at minus-1, Ko made her second gain on No. 10. Ko's lone bogey on 13 was short-lived as she made eagle at the par-5 14th, getting her to minus-3. Ko finished with four straight pars from 15 to end there.
Kwak made five birdies and two bogeys in her round, while Sharp was very up and down all day as she made eight total birdies, but tripped to five bogeys.
NOTES: Lee registered five top-10 finishes last season, including a tie for second at the Mizuno Classic ... Lee has tied for 46th and 47th at the first two events this season ... Jutanugarn earned her LPGA card for this season when she tied for third at the 2014 LPGA Qualifying Tournament ... Ko is seeking her third top-10 finish in three events to start the 2015 campaign ... Ko won three times in her rookie year in 2014 and won the season-long Race to the CME Globe ... This is the fourth installment of the Australian Open on the LPGA Tour, with the first one played in 2012.