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Webb leads Women’s Aussie Open by three

MELBOURNE, Australia — Former No. 1-ranked Karrie Webb returned to form with a 7-under 66 to lead the Women’s Australian Open by three strokes Thursday, while 12-year-old Oh Su-hyun became the youngest player ever to participate in the tournament.

Webb, the defending champion, had eight birdies and a bogey to take a three-stroke lead over Tania Elosegui of Spain and South Korea’s Lee Chang-hee. Clare Queen of Scotland, Beatriz Recari of Spain and South Korea’s Kim Hye-youn were each four shots off the pace.

The 34-year-old Webb, chasing her third straight Women’s Australian Open title and fifth since 2000, was pleased with her strong start at the Metropolitan Golf Club.

“I’m not surprised because I know what I’m capable of but I was really unsure on how the course would play today,” the seven-time major winner said. “It’s one round of golf but I’m definitely giving myself a few pats on the back because it’s a very good score around here whatever state my game is in.”

Webb hasn’t won a tournament since beating South Korea’s Shin Ji-yai on the second hole of a playoff in Melbourne last year and is hoping to break her drought this week.

“It’s a nice little boost to confidence,” said Webb, who birdied four of her first six holes. “Hopefully I can carry it on for the next few days.”

Oh, who hadn’t picked up a golf club before moving to Australia from South Korea in 2004 and now plays off a 2 handicap, was 13 shots back after a 6-over 79.

But after having to miss school to compete in qualifying and the Open, Oh hadn’t given up hopes of making the cut despite a harsh self-assessment of her opening round.

“I was really nervous when I started and really nervous when I finished,” said Oh, who turns 13 in May. “I enjoyed it, but I did not play good golf.”