Two birdies on her closing three holes saw Stephanie Meadow move into the top 20 on day one of the AIG Women’s British Open at Walton Heath, one stroke clear of Leona Maguire who’d earlier battled to a level-par 72.
Starting her round just before midday, Jordanstown native Meadow, like her compatriot before her, started with six consecutive pars and opened her birdie account on the par-4 seventh. Two more pars followed as she covered the opening side in one-under, but with the wind picking up considerably and the course drying out, scoring was proving tougher for the mid and late wave starters.
Bogeys at 11 and 15 threatened to undo the hard work, but she responded with birdies at 16 and 17 to get back into red figures for the tournament and end the day tied for 19th at -1.
Elm Park’s Anna Foster, who successfully navigated Final Qualifying on Monday, suffered a difficult start to her maiden major championship. In the fourth-to-last group to make their way to the first tee, the amateur struggled to find her comfort zone, but a birdie-three on the eighth – perhaps the first of many in major championships – was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing afternoon for the Auburn University student.
American Ally Ewing made light of the afternoon breeze to turn in a four-under 68 that sees her take solo first-round-leader honours with a quintet including Koreans Amy Yang and Jeongeun Lee6 one shot shy in tied second.
19 of the last 22 Women’s majors have been won by first-time major winners, and Ewing – a three time LPGA Tour winner who’s yet to break her major duck – will be relishing the opportunity to add her name to the growing list of major champions.
“It’s great to put a good first round together,” she said afterwards, “but major championship golf, you can never — you know, you can never really lose focus. So I’ll get some food and get a good night’s sleep and come back and take on the next day.”
“Yeah, you know, I was kind of unaware of that,” she responded when told that she’d played in the toughest of the conditions, “but last week at the Scottish, I dealt with a pretty decent amount of wind. I had a pretty tough wave I think in terms of the weather conditions on Thursday.”
U.S. Women’s Open champion Allisen Corpuz is part of a 12-strong group at -2 that also includes Spaniard Carlota Ciganda and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka. Charley Hull, whose back-nine charge gave Corpuz food for thought at Pebble Beach sits alongside Meadow at -1, while Rose Zhang is part of the large group who joined Maguire at level-par.
“Yeah, I mean, any time you think of the British Open, you think of just a lot of wind,” said Corpuz who’d missed the cut in her only previous British Open appearance. “And this isn’t quite a links-style course, but it’s definitely different from anything you see in the U.S.”
Nelly Korda lies tied for 60th on +1, while Evian Championship winner Celine Boutier, seeking three wins on the spin, opened with a two-over 74 and joins Lydia Ko, Yuka Saso and defending champion Ashleigh Buhai in a tie for 81st.