Australia

Minjee Lee leads the Aussie pack chasing a young American superstar at the Women’s Open

Rampant world number one Nelly Korda can feel a target on her back after a brilliant start to the Women’s British Open — and Australia’s leading challengers, headed by Minjee Lee, will be firing at it following a round of fireworks at fearsome Carnoustie.

Korda, fresh from her Olympic triumph in Tokyo, continued her dazzling form by taming the famous Scottish links with a classy morning round of 5-under-par 67 to share opening day honours with Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom and South Korea’s Sei Young Kim.

Nobody can currently really afford to give a head start to Korda, who’s a combined 87-under par for her last 21 rounds — a run that included the Women’s PGA and Olympic victories.

But most of the eight-strong Aussie contingent still have the game’s newest star in their distant sights.

They were headed by newly minted major champion Lee and Su Oh, who both shot 1-under 71s, while Katherine Kirk and Stephanie Kyriacou are level par, a score never to be sniffed at on a course famed for its cruelty, even on one of its kinder days weather-wise.

They’re all chasing Korda, though.

“I’m very happy,” the 23-year-old American said.

“You strive to be at the top so it feels good, but you kind of know that you have a target on your back. I just have to keep positive and see how it goes.

“It was very chilly in the morning — that was the only thing against us today — but the wind kept calm and I took advantage of it.”

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So did Lee, chasing back-to-back major championships and the biggest purse in women’s golf history, but the 25-year-old rued dropping five shots in a horror three-hole stretch around the turn.

Riding high after a stunning come-from-behind breakthrough at last month’s Evian Championship in France, Lee had a roller-coaster ride that saw her open with three birdies in six holes, suffer double bogeys at the eighth and 10th, record an eagle at the par-five 12th, and almost hole in one at the beastly par-3 16th.

“I would probably sum it up as eventful,” Lee said about her adventure.

Minjee Lee is four shots off the lead at 1-under.(

Getty Images: Andrew Redington

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Melbourne’s Oh definitely bought into the idea that Carnoustie is golf’s biggest test but was delighted to “get lucky” at the 15th when she holed her seven-iron approach from 155 metres for an eagle two that transformed her round.

“I didn’t actually hit it that great but once it lands, it feeds to the hole. I just saw it bounce a couple times, and I was like, ‘oh that might be all right’. Then the crowd were like, ‘whew, it’s in the hole!’, and I was really happy,” she beamed.

Kyriacou missed a few chances but savoured her first taste of the “brutal” links.

“I had quite a few putts roll over the edge,” she said. “If I get my putter going, I could go low tomorrow.”

Brisbane’s Kirk was another who had an uneven day, with her five birdies going alongside five bogeys.

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Lee’s Olympic teammate Hannah Green went out of bounds for a double-bogey on the sixth en route to a 73, while Whitney Hillier will rue a similar double at 17, which saw her also end up at one over, just four holes after she’d been pondering a 70.

Aussie amateur Kirsten Rudgeley endured a nightmare major debut, signing for a 14-over 86, featuring two doubles, 10 bogeys, just six pars and not a single birdie.

AAP


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