Kirk, who last won at the 2017 Thornberry Classic, shot an impressive three-under 69 to be just two shots behind American leaders Nelly Korda, Jennifer Kupcho and Austin Ernst after the opening round of the tournament.
Jaye Marie Green is one shot ahead of the Queenslander, who finds herself in a 10-way tie for sixth, in a group including Kiwi Lydia Ko and Jessica Korda.
Kirk posted two birdies and two bogeys before a run of birdies on 13, 14 and 16 kept her within striking distance of the leaders.
Nelly Korda didn’t miss a beat four days after her first LPGA Tour title on US soil when she won the Gainbridge.
Since winning at Lake Nona, her fourth career victory, Nelly Korda did a little laundry, took it easy with nine-hole practice rounds at Golden Ocala, tightened up her swing and it was like nothing had changed.
Among her five birdies, she chipped in from 50 feet from the rough below the 10th green and down a ridge.
Former NCAA champion Kupcho managed a 67 despite playing most of the back nine with a migraine that blurs her vision.
Golden Ocala is renowned for having replica holes from famous courses, three of them from Augusta National and two from the Old Course at St Andrews.
Kupcho, along with her NCAA title at Wake Forest, captured the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019 with a back-nine charge. That day at the home of the Masters included her having to get through one of her migraines, in which her vision suffers.
Thursday was not much different.
“Honestly, about on 14 I was ready to get off the golf course,” Kupcho said.
Australian Sarah Kemp mixed four birdies with four bogeys for an even-par 72, to be tied 41st.
Second-ranked Sei Young Kim and World No.5 Danielle Kang shot 72. Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson opened with 74s.
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