Solid Start for Simon

Day 1 leader of the Evian Masters, Eun-Hee Ji of Korea plays her approach shot to the 5th green during the first days play. Credit: Tristan Jones/LETThe LPGA opened its 2007 European leg in Evian-les-Bains, France, yesterday for the Evian Masters, and South Africa’s Ashleigh Simon started with a solid 2-under par, four off the overnight leaders with fierce competition in the 90-player field vying for the $450,000 pay check.

Leading the charge is defending champion Karrie Webb, who collected five Tour wins in 2006, and a win this week would mark Webb’s first of the year, making her the second player to successfully defend her title in 2007.
Ashleigh Simon, the only South African in the player field, joins three other golfers on the Ladies European Tour to have been offered wildcard entries to this year’s prestigious Evian Masters, which started on Thursday.
As the first Major on this year’s calendar, the field boasts strong representation from both the Ladies Europen Tour, and their North American Ladies Professional Golf Association colleagues.
Paired with 2006 Women’s World Cup Korean representative Jeong Jang in the first round, Simon recorded three bogies against 10 even-par holes, with her advantage in five birdies, including three in the final five holes.
Meanwhile, a birdie at the final hole gave rising US star Brittany Lincicome a share of the first round lead at the Evian Masters in France.
The 21-year-old American, who won her second career victory at the Ginn Open on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) in April, produced a round of 66 at Evian Royal Resort to tie the lead with fellow American Pat Hurst, and LPGA rookie Eun-Hee Ji of South Korea.
Lincicome was within five inches of an albatross at the ninth hole following an excellent approach shot that fell just short of the pin, but took an eagle there, in addition to her five birdies and one bogey.
She admitted it took her a while to get into her game. “It kind of started a little slow then I finally made a couple birdies. Then I made an eagle and I was like ‘okay’,” she said.
“I was trying to get it to about six (under-par) so that if anybody got to seven I would still be kind of close.” Hurst and Ji were clubhouse leaders at lunchtime, after posting early rounds of 66.
The pair, who played together in the fourth match of the day, were separated by one shot standing on the 18th tee. Ji birdied the final hole to finish at six-under-par while Hurst went one better with an eagle at the last following a superb approach shot from 190 yards.
“I played steady out there,” said five-time tournament champion Hurst. “I started out with a birdie so that got me off on the right foot. I played pretty steady and just kept it down the middle and on the green and made some putts.”
The American teenager, Michelle Wie, who finished tied for second with Davies at last year’s event, was pleased to have posted a 73 for a share of 37th place.
“I can take so many positives out of this round and that’s what I’m going to do,” said the 17-year-old, who added that the wrist injury that had blighted much of her year had virtually disappeared.
“The pain was definitely not as bad so I know I’m definitely on the road to recovery,” she added.
The Evian Masters has proven friendly to rookies in the past. In 2005, eventual Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Paula Creamer claimed her second professional win at the 72-hole event, beating the world-class field by eight strokes.
With the win, Creamer became the youngest and fastest player in LPGA Tour history to win more than $1 million in a season.
The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the Evian Masters hosted by the Evian Royal Resort jointly announce that the 2007 Evian Masters will conclude on Sunday instead of the traditional Saturday finish for the mid-summer event in Evian-Les-Bains, France. 
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