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.
- Minjee Lee and Su Oh are both 1-under after the opening round of the Women’s Open, four shots off the lead
- American world number one Nelly Korda joins Madelene Sagstrom and Sei Young Kim in a tie for the lead
- Lee started with three early birdies but soon crashed back to 1-over par, before saving her round with an eagle and birdie on the back nine
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.”
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.
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.
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.