Those who thought Karrie Webb would march unchallenged to her ninth Australian Ladies Masters crown were brought back to earth on Thursday.

After the build-up came the reality, and for Karrie Webb it wasn’t such a good feeling walking off Royal Pines on Thursday as it must have been standing at the first tee.

The 39-year-old was all the rage in the build-up to the Australian Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast. Her attempt at an unprecedented ninth title was the main talking point.

Sure, she hadn’t swung a club in competitive anger for weeks and had spent most of her preparation holidaying with family in north Queensland, but when it comes to Royal Pines, Webb could play a blinder there with her eyes closed, couldn’t she?

Going into the round, Webb was an amazing 262 under par from 20 previous Ladies Masters at the venue, which was an average of 69 a round on a course that has fluctuated between a par 73 and par 72 during her career.

On Thursday, however, the former world No.1 could manage only one birdie in her one-over 74, and posted bogeys on the 16th and seventh to ensure she finished well back in the field after the first round.

“I feel like it was very tricky, and the greens were a little more tricky today to read than normal,” Webb said.

“Mainly, I think I struggled with my concentration a little bit and just being focused and ready to hit my shot. I expected that, but it’s still frustrating at the same time when you’re not able to maintain it when you need to.”

Not that Webb was panicking, taking a steady-as-she-goes approach in her attempt to get back into contention over the remaining rounds.

“Obviously, I’d love to shoot a low one to get back in the tournament,” she said.

“But I’d just like to build on today, try and continue to shake off the rust and think about playing golf shots, making some putts. If that adds up to a low one, great.”