Sat, Jul 12, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Japan’s Uehara soars into the Women’s Open lead

POCKET ROCKET:The diminutive Ayako Uehara, who hails from Japan’s Okinawa, shrugged off testing windy conditions to putt her way into the lead on the first day


Japan’s Ayako Uehara prepares to putt on the ninth green at the Royal Birkdale golf course in Southport, England, on Thursday during the first day of the Women’s British Open.

Photo: AFP

Japan’s Ayako Uehara found her putting touch and soared to the head of the leaderboard on a day of tough scoring at the Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale on Thursday.

Windy conditions and deep rough set a stiff test, but Uehara had five birdies in a four-under-par 68 and she led by one from the US’ Mo Martin.

Uehara, a three-time winner on the Japanese Tour, made her only bogey at the long par-four first, but she hit back with three birdies in the first half and more at the short 12th and long 18th.

Only nine players finished under par and the list included defending champion Stacy Lewis on 71. However, US Open champion Michelle Wie struggled from the tee and had to settle for a three-over-par 75.

Taiwan’s Candie Kung carded a four-over 76, while compatriot and former world No. 1 Yani Tseng was facing an early exit after shooting a 10-over 82.

Martin, who uses the long putter and is renowned with her accuracy from the tee, matched Uehara’s haul of five birdies, but dropped shots at the second and 12th. Three players were on 70 — the US’ Morgan Pressel and Mina Harigae, and Australia’s Sarah Kemp.

Now in her second season on the US-based LPGA Tour, pocket-sized Uehara has struggled to hit any sort of form this year and missed the cut in the first two majors.

“But today my putting was so good,” the world No. 125 said after holing a string of 15-foot efforts for the birdies.

“I come from Okinawa in Japan and so I am used to the wind. I’m so happy and excited to play well in a major and this is definitely my best round of the year, but there are another three days to go,” she added.

Lewis, the world No. 1 and winner at St Andrews last year, was happy to start with a number in red figures, even more so considering she was two-over-par after three holes.

“Anything under par is a good score today,” she said. “The opening few holes are so tough and I bogeyed the first and third, but I knew I had to stay patient. The conditions were pretty horrible, but I managed to make a few birdies.”

Wie described her round as “a real battle.”

After three bogeys and a solitary birdie at the second in the outward half she dropped further shots at the 14th and 16th, before making a welcome four at the long 18th.

“I put myself in some pretty tough positions from the tee,” she said. “I was in too many pot bunkers and there was a lot of chipping out from the rough.”

Additional reporting by staff writer

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