Australia's Karis Davidson had a strong opening round on the first day of the ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by AVIV Clinics, firing a 4-under 69 on Thursday at Castlerock Golf Club. The 25-year-old shot out of the gate with a birdie on the par-4 1st hole but stumbled with a bogey on No. 2, recovering with a birdie on the par-5 3rd hole to get back to 1-under. Davidson then recorded back-to-back birdies on 5 and 6 to move to 3-under, making 10 consecutive pars before she found her next birdie on 17, parring again on 18 to post her lowest first-round score since day one of the ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican last November.
The 69 is just the Aussie's third round in the 60s this season, with her previous two sub-70 scores coming in the final round of the LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei in April and the second round of the Cognizant Founders Cup in May. After her flurry of birdies on the front nine, Davidson felt like she was fighting tooth and nail on the back nine to wrestle her low number into the clubhouse and was impressed with her ability to fire a round of 4-under in such formidable playing conditions.
"The back nine was quite windy so it was just grinding away," said Davidson, who hit 5 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens on day one. "Front nine holed a couple of long putts, which was nice, and obviously teeing up off we got a little bit fortunate that the wind wasn't too strong. And the birdie on 17 was really good as well, reachable par-5 in two. It was downwind and in the practice round, it was into the wind, so in the practice round we were hitting 3-wood and today I was hitting 8-iron, so it was quite different. And then just hit it left of the green and made a two-putt."
This is Davidson's second appearance in the ISPS Handa World Invitational, and in her tournament debut in 2022, she finished in a tie for 18th after carding rounds of 71-71-69-73. This week marks her 13th start of the 2023 LPGA Tour season, and the Aussie has missed six cuts and picked up three top-20 results in that same span, the best of which is a T13 that came at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational alongside partner Daniela Darquea.
While she's incredibly happy to be off to a fast start through 18 holes in Northern Ireland and hold the first first-round lead/co-lead of her LPGA Tour career, Davidson will quickly move on to preparation for tomorrow's round at Galgorm Castle Golf Club, a venue that greatly differs from the one she found success at on Thursday. But she'll definitely utilize the momentum she gleaned from today's round to boost her confidence throughout the next 54 holes and work to be one of the players with the opportunity to tee it up on Sunday.
"I'm just going to try and keep doing my own game and try not to think about that too much. But it is nice to see it up there for a change," Davidson said. "Galgorm (Castle Golf Club) is playing really soft so you can definitely be a little bit more aggressive at pins. And the greens are a little bit quicker, so it's quite a different golf course. I'm looking forward to the challenge."