Australia’s Minjee Lee carded a superb seven under par 65 to claim a slender one-shot lead after the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
The 22-year-old from Perth raced to the turn in three under par 32 and then fired three birdies and an eagle coming home to go into the second round one shot in front of Japan’s Mamiko Higa and two ahead of England’s Georgia Hall, Koreans Sung Hyun Park and Mi Hyang Lee, Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum and Teresa Lu from Chinese Taipei.
Germany’s Sandra Gal, America’s Mina Harigae and former World No. 1 Lydia Ko all shot four under par 68s to share eighth place while the large group in a tie for eleventh place on 69 included Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, Canada’s Brooke Henderson, Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn, China’s Yu Liu, England’s Florentyna Parker, Korea’s So Yeon Ryu, Sweden’s Madeline Sangstrom, Germany’s Karolin Lampert, American Angel Yin and Welsh qualifier Lydia Hall.
Lee on form from Gullane
Lee arrived at Lytham fresh from finishing second at last week’s Aberdeen Standard Investment Scottish Ladies Open and with wins at this year’s Women’s Victoria Open and the LPGA Volvik Championship already under her belt. She is currently in third place behind Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka on the LPGA Tour’s official money list and could go higher if she maintains her current run of form.
“I’ve probably played more events at this point of the season than I have ever done before and I’ve been pretty consistent,” she said.
“I think I only went in one fairway bunker all day so that was probably the key. I kept it in play and holed a couple of long putts. I think playing Scotland last week really helped me coming into this week.
“I definitely love the links,” she added. “We don’t get many chances to do it but I think everybody enjoys it when we do.”
Higa has won four times on the Japan LPGA Tour and finished tied-seventh on her debut at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at the Old Course, St Andrews, back in 2013. She carded four birdies over her first seven holes, before dropped her sole shot of the day on the 8th but then bounced back with birdies on the 9th, 12th and 14th to claim second place all on her own.
“It’s an honour to play in a major like this and it’s something I have always dreamt about. My rhythm was good all day so I could relax and enjoy the 18 holes.”
Hall perfectly poised
Hall finished top of the 2017 Ladies European Tour money list with the help of a share of last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns and the 22-year-old from Bournmouth is in a prime spot to mount another challenge after a 67 highlighted by three consecutive birdies from the 13th.
The English woman recently met American, Tom Lehman, who won The Open at Lytham back in 1996 and his advice to her was to stay out of the bunkers at all costs. “I did that today,” she said. “I was very good off the tee and I holed some good putts as well. To be five-under par is cool.
“I have a lot of confidence from last year,” she added. “It’s just the first round but I’ve started really well and hopefully I can start good again tomorrow.”
Michelle Wie, who led last year’s championship at Kingsbarns after a first round eight-under par 64, withdrew after 12 holes suffering from a hand injury. “I have been doing everything possible (besides giving it a proper rest) this past couple of weeks to get my hand healthy to play in this year’s event but, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough,” the former US Women’s Open champion wrote on Instagram.
The shot of the day came from Parker whose three under par 69 included a hole-in-one with an 8-iron on the 140-yard par-3 8th hole and it resulted in Ricoh donated £2,000 to Alzheimer’s Research UK. The title sponsor is giving the charity a contribution for every birdie, eagle and albatross scored at this year’s championship. They are donating £10 per birdie and £20 for every eagle as well as a bonus £2,000 for a hole-in-one.
“I was two-over par at the time, so I told myself just to hit the green because I wasn’t playing great. It landed, bounced a few times and then disappeared,” said Parker. “It was amazing. I can’t really believe it.”
Parker went on to make the most of her good fortune by racing home in three-under par 34 to post her 69 and consolidate her place just outside the top-ten.