Koreans, Haeji Kang and So Yeon Ryu, carded fine two under par rounds of 70 to claim a slender one shot lead after the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Liverpool.
Kang and her compatriot Ryu, the 2011 US Women’s Open champion, go into the second round with the narrowest of advantages over a cosmopolitan group comprising 16 year-old English amateur Charley Hull, Japan’s Ai and Mikka Miyazato, Australians Karrie Webb and Stacey Keating, Americans Katie Futcher and Vicky Hurst, Welsh girl Lydia Hall and 2008 champion, Jiyai Shin, who all share 3rd place on one under par 71.
On a good day for the strong amateur contingent, 15 year-old New Zealander, Lydia Ko, and English Curtis Cup player, Holly Clyburn, posted level par rounds 72 to be tied in 12th place with Sweden’s Karin Koch, Americans Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford and Morgan Pressel, Koreans Hee-Won Han, Chella Choi, Inbee Park and Hee Kyung Seo, Japan’s Yuki Ichinose, Becky Morgan from Wales, Australian Katherine Hull, England’s Trish Johnson, Spain’s Beatriz Recari and Amy Hung and Yani Tseng from Taipei.
Tseng, the World No. 1, is bidding to become the first player to claim a hat-trick of Ricoh British Women’s Open titles, having won at Royal Birkdale in 2010 and again at Carnoustie twelve months ago.
Kang began her round with a bogey on the 392-yard par-4 1st hole but she moved into red figures with birdies on the 157-yard par-3 6th and the 383-yard par-4 7th before dropping two shots to par on the 382-yard par-4 8th where she drove into the rough and then compounded the error with three putts from 50-feet.
The Korean bounced back with a second two of the day on the 178-yard par-3 9th and then added further birdies at the 11th, 15th and 16th before shedding a further shot to par with another three-putt on the 457-yard par-4 17th.
“I hit it pretty good out there,” said Kang who has notched two top-10 finishes in her last three starts at the Safeway Classic and the CN Canadian Open. “I worked really hard on my swing last winter and did a lot of fitness work. I’m hitting the ball a lot further and that helps a lot in the Majors when the courses tend to be longer.
“I’m really happy with my round.”
Ryu is full of confidence having won last month’s Jamie Farr Toledo Classic on the LPGA Tour as well as last week’s event on the Korean LPGA Tour.
The Korean began the day with a birdie on the 377-yard par-4 2nd but then gave it straight back with a bogey on the 405-yard par-4 3rd. She reached the turn in level par 35 and stormed to two under par with birdies on the 493-yard par-5 10th and the 151-yard par-3 13th before claiming a place alongside compatriot, Kang, with two birdies and two bogeys over the last five holes.
“This is my first time playing the British Open and my first time visiting England so everything is new to me,” she said. “But I’m confident after winning last week and relaxed after being at home and having some great Korean food.
“I putted great today,” she added. “It’s a big surprise I played so well today. I have never played this type of golf course before. It’s really tough, but fun. I want another Major trophy, but today is just the first day, we have three more days to go.”
Teenager, Hull, came into the 2012 Ricoh Women’s Open having made the cut in all four of the Tour events she has played in this season and she continued to display maturity beyond her years with a steady round in which she fired birdies on the 377-yard par-4 2nd and the 528-yard par-5th before making her only mistake on the 8th where she hit her approach through the green and failed to get up-and-down.
“I’m happy,” said the English Curtis Cup player, who plans to go to the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School this winter.
“I wasn’t nervous on the first tee because I didn’t have any expectations,” she added. “I was probably more nervous at Final Qualifying because last year I scored a seven on the last and missed out by one.”
World No. 1 amateur, Ko, arrived on Merseyside fresh from winning the CN Canadian Open to become the youngest ever winner of an LPGA event at the age of 15 years, four months and two days and, like Hull and Clyburn, is bidding to become the first amateur to win a Major since Catherine Lacoste at the 1967 US Women’s Open.
Ko carded five birdies and five bogeys in the blustery conditions and then made an unsuccessful bid to play down her chances come the weekend. “I think this is one of the toughest golf courses I have ever played,” she said “There are a lot of people expecting big things from me but I’m not going to take that much interest . I’m just going to play my own game and see what happens although I think this is a pretty good start.
“It was really tough shooting level par.”
Shin teed up at Hoylake just three days after winning a play-off against Paul Creamer at the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Virginia, and she wasted no time starting where she left off in the wind on the Wirral.
“I have got a lot of confidence,” she said. “Today, actually, I think I got lucky, because I was out when there was just a breeze but it’s still tough. The course is very tight and the greens are very small. I’m really happy with my score today.”
The second round starts as 7.00 am tomorrow. The draw can be found here.