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Don't write off Webb's hopes just yet, Korean rival warns

Korean Jiyai Shin has issued a warning to those willing to dismiss Karrie Webb's Australian Open hopes - do so at your own peril.

The world No.8 has been burnt in the past by Webb's competitive grit, and says the 38-year-old can recover from her slow start at Royal Canberra.

On a day where most of the big names also struggled to fire, Webb carded a two-under 71 to sit in a tie for 33rd spot on Thursday.

Nine of the world's top 20 golfers teed off, but the leaderboard is dominated by a 15-year-old phenomenon, and a bevy of unheralded no-names.

World No.125 Colombian Mariajo Uribe (nine under), Korean world No.399 Mi Hyang Lee, Japanese world No.70 Ayako Uehara and Canadian world No.444 Rebecca Lee-Bentham (all seven under) are nipping at teenage amateur Lydia Ko's heels. Hardly the leaderboard organisers would have envisaged and it also took Shin by surprise. Her eight-under 65 was the best afternoon round.

''It did actually, but we still have three more days and this course has a lot of par-fives,'' she said. ''The good players have a real chance to make eight, nine or 10 under.''


Webb also played in the afternoon but Shin insisted that's no excuse, with conditions almost as perfect as in the morning.

''Before I started I thought Lydia hit a massive score this morning, but I thought it was still good golf conditions,'' she said. ''Fortunately this afternoon wasn't quite as warm and a little bit of breeze, it was good conditions with the fresh feel. Yesterday [Wednesday] when I played in the pro-am the grass dried so quick, but today the cloud cover was a good thing, it made it less dry and a bit easier.''

Shin was beaten by Webb on the second play-off hole at the 2008 Australian Ladies Masters.

The pair again played together in the first two rounds on the Gold Coast two weeks ago, when Webb secured her eighth Masters title.

''This is golf, you never know,'' she said. ''I played with Karrie on the Gold Coast and when I was watching her swing, it's much better than last year. It's got better tempo, she should have a good year.''

Queenslander Katherine Hull-Kirk, West Australian Kristie Smith and Sarah-Jane Smith were the best of the Australians at five under after day one. Canberra's Nikki Campbell played in the afternoon and began solidly with a two-under 71.