Inbee Park began her quest for a place in history with a three-under 69, but it was Morgan Pressel of the US and Sweden’s Camilla Lennarth who grabbed the lead on 66 after the first round of the Women’s British Open.
South Korea’s Park, the world No. 1, is burdened with the pressure of trying to become the first player to win four majors in one calendar year and a shaky patch tarnished a seven-birdie round over the Old Course at St Andrews.
Out in five-under and with a day’s sixth birdie at the 10th, the 25-year-old from Seoul was in her usual position at the top of the leaderboard, but four dropped shots in five holes from the 13th left her feeling a little frustrated.
“I am a little disappointed,” she said after making a seven-foot birdie putt at the 18th. “I had a couple of bad drives and a couple of bad putts. I was nervous at the start because I know what I am playing for. I made a few birdies and that gave me confidence, but I had a shaky spell and I definitely hope to improve over the next three days.”
The 16th was the real blemish. She dumped her second shot into an awkward lie in a bunker, hit out away from the flag and then three-putted for a double-bogey six.
Pressel has her own goal. She needs a decent week to force her way into the US Solheim Cup team for the match against Europe in Colorado in two weeks’ time.
Pressel is currently No. 51 in the world and she needs to overtake Jennifer Johnson — the world No. 50 who shot 74 on Thursday — to automatically make the lineup for a third successive time.
The team is named tomorrow.
“If I had a dollar for every time I think about the Solheim I would be a zillionaire,” Pressel said. “It’s such a special week and I don’t want to miss it. I’m trying not to dwell on it, but it has been nice this week to get some encouraging notes and messages from other players.”
Lennarth, a Monday qualifier, was the surprise package. Late in the day, the rookie on the Ladies’ European Tour birdied the 18th from 10 feet to join Pressel at the top of the leaderboard.
“This is my first British Open and it has always been a dream to play here at St Andrews,” the 25-year-old said. “I am surprised to be joint leader, but I know I can hit good shots and play good golf. I birdied the first and that helped me relax, and now I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
On a cramped leaderboard, Pressel and Lennarth led by one shot from a group of seven players that included two former US Open champions from South Korea, Ji Eun-hee and Choi Na-yeon.
Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, the 2009 champion, played with Pressel and kept up hopes of a home win with a fine 68 that included birdies at the final two holes.
The third member of the group was defending champion Shin Ji-yai and the South Korean opened with a 71.
Taiwanese former world No. 1 Yani Tseng shot an even-par 72, as did compatriot Candie Kung.
Additional reporting by staff writer