Former world No 1 Lydia Ko three shots behind leader Caroline Hedwall at Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic

The two-time major champion, making her debut in the UAE, is nicely placed after first round

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Former world No 1 Lydia Ko sits three off the lead after the first round of the Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic.

The two-time major champion, making her UAE debut, trails frontrunner Caroline Hedwall of Sweden, who fired an opening 65 that included a hole-in-one around the Faldo Course on Wednesday to head the field on 7-under par. Germany’s Laura Fuenfstueck and Frenchwoman Celine Boutier are sandwiched in second, two shots from the summit.

Ninth on the Ladies European Tour’s order of merit last year, Fuenfstueck’s round included six birdies and a bogey. She remains in search of her first win on tour, but arrived in the emirate ahead of time – and it appears to have paid off.

“I came out to Dubai a bit early to practice on a few of the golf courses around here,” said Fuenfstueck, an ever-present on the circuit this season. “There’s just so many nice ones so I just tried to prepare as well as I could.

“I’ve played as much golf as I could this year and although I still missed a few putts out there, I am really pleased with my day. You have to be smart on this course, especially where you place the ball into the greens and where you hit it off the tee.”

In its second edition, the Moonlight Classic is a 54-hole, day-night tournament played at Emirates Golf Club in a Pro-Am format. In line with current public health guidelines, it is being staged behind closed doors and in a bio-secure environment.

“One of my pro-am partners today was a scratch golfer and the other two were super nice, so that definitely helped me”, Fuenfstueck said. “They were making me competitive and I really enjoyed my day.”

Playing under the floodlights for her second round, Fuenfstueck added: “The greens are easier to read in the sun because you can tell the grain a bit more, but maybe I will find out what it will be like tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Ko had a mixed day on her first competitive round around the track, with the New Zealander carding a 68 made up of an eagle, six birdies and four bogeys. Like Fuenfstueck, Ko, a five-time winner already on the Ladies European Tour (LET), goes out later on Thursday.

Elsewhere, defending champion Nuria Iturrioz got off to a strong start of her defence. The Spaniard, who prevailed last year by a solitary stroke, began on the 13th tee, which after an opening 69, didn’t appear unlucky at all.

“My mum and I like the number 13 – she gave me a necklace with this number so it’s actually a good thing I started on that tee,” said Iturrioz after reeling off five birdies offset by a couple of bogeys. “I am happy. I made a lot of putts for par so I saved a lot. I was telling my caddie just how peaceful it is here; I love the course and the design.

“Coming back to a course that I’ve done well at does make me feel confident, but also it adds a bit of pressure. But I just try to do my best and do what I need to do on the course.”

Of the evening wave, Hedwall starred when a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th hole earned her a watch from the tournament sponsors, and helped eventually lift her into a share of the lead. The Swede added five birdies in a blemish-free round to seal a superb 67.

Also, European Solheim Cup star Celine Boutier had a fine first round, with the Frenchwoman shooting a 4-under 68 to boost her hopes of clinching the trophy.