Ryu So-yeon marked her links course debut with a two-under 70 to share the lead with fellow South Korean Haeji Kang after the first round of the Women’s British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
Winner of last season’s US Women’s Open before she even became an LPGA Tour member, 22-year-old Ryu surprised herself with a five-birdie round in the testing, breezy conditions.
Conditions could have been a lot worse and very strong winds were forecast for the second round yesterday. Only 11 players broke par, with Taiwan’s Yani Tseng, winner for the past two years, and Lydia Ko, a 15-year-old amateur, in the next group on level 72.
Ryu, a winner of the Toledo Classic on the LPGA Tour last month and on the Korean Tour last weekend, arrived in England in relaxed mood.
“I have felt under huge pressure ever since I won the US Open,” she said. “After I won a major, everyone back home couldn’t understand why I didn’t win more, but getting my second LPGA title at Toledo was great. Today also feels really good. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I just thought ‘wow,’ the weather was so bad here, but today was much better, and I just hit a lot of low fade shots and that really helped. I was only in one bunker and that was also a bonus.”
Kang has never finished higher than fourth on the LPGA Tour, but she managed seven birdies, including a great three in a row run from the 14th.
“My iron shots were great and that was the key,” she said. “I’ve played quite a lot of links golf in Australia so that also made it a little easier for me.”
Australia’s Karrie Webb, a three-time winner, and the 2008 champion from South Korea, Shin Ji-yai, were in a group in joint third on 71.
Tseng, who won with a 16-under total at Carnoustie in Scotland last year, says she relishes tough conditions and the world No. 1 remains a massive threat and the championship favorite.
She had four birdies and her only big mistake was a double-bogey at the par-four 11th.
“The weather wasn’t too bad and I hit a lot of good shots, but I left a lot of birdies out there,” Tseng said.
Taiwan’s Amy Hung was also in the group on even-par with Tseng, while Candie Kung was a shot further back after a 73.
New Zealand’s Ko, who became the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour at last month’s Canadian Open, again showed remarkable maturity.
Out first, she opened with a birdie and had four more to confirm that she is ready to challenge for the biggest titles in the women’s game, but her feet remain firmly planted.
“Everyone is expecting big things from me, but I don’t take much interest in what other people say. I’m not going to play well because other people think I should,” the teenager said.
“I just play my own game. Today, shooting par was a pretty good start. I could have had a few more birdies, but, hopefully, I’m saving them up for tomorrow,” she said.
Not that Ko was the top amateur, or the top teenager — England’s 16-year-old Charley Hull snatched the honor with a one-under 71.
Hull had a better day than her caddie, whose motorbike was stolen from outside his hotel. He caught a taxi to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
“He made it in plenty of time. I didn’t even know until he told me after the round,” Hull said on the Ladies European Tour Web site.
Additional reporting by Staff writer