American Tiffany Joh, who is coached by Irish-born Gareth Raflewski, completed a flawless opening round of nine-under-par 62 to claim a new women’s course record at Gullane in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open.
Surf-loving Joh from San Diego, California rode a wave that included nine birdies on a day of near perfect conditions at Gullane to finish four clear of South Korean trio Jenny Shin, Amy Yang and In-Kyung Kim.
The 31-year-old LPGA player, who won twice on the Symetra Tour, in 2010 and 2011, birdied the first two holes and added six further gains from the eighth including monster putts at the par-3 12th and par-4 13th.
After sinking a six footer for her final birdie on the 18th, she said: “I pretty much kept it in play and putted amazing. I didn’t feel like I hit it particularly well but I left it in the right places and had a hot putter.”
Raflewski, who also coaches the Thai Jutanugarn sisters, among other notable golfers is having a very positive effect on Joh obviously.
“We’ve been working on visualisation and Gareth made me realise that I was getting too wrapped up in my stroke instead of being athletic and reacting to a target,” said Joh. “He saw that he was losing my interest and so he started throwing in some surfing metaphors and asking questions like ‘who’s your favourite surfer? Watch what their eyes are doing! So that was what I was trying to do out there.”
Joh has been checking out the local surf spots since arriving in Scotland and has identified Pease Bay as a possible destination for the weekend, if she can find a someone to lend her a board. Although she made her score in mostly calm and tranquil conditions on Thursday, she wouldn’t mind a little wet and wild weather.
“You can’t come over to Scotland and not get a little bit of wind and weather: that would almost be a little bit of a let-down,” she said, adding: “You’ll probably find me out there off the 11th tee, trying to shred some gnar!”
Earlier in the day, Shin, Yang and Kim set the target at five-under-par. Kim excelled as the wind started to blow, making five birdies on her back nine, including four in a row from the 13th. The 2017 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion found avoiding the bunkers the toughest part in the hot and dry conditions and she was one of several players who hit record drives of more than 350 yards on the down-wind, downhill par-4 10th hole.
“I think everybody’s having struggles on certain holes. I passed the 350-yard bunker that I would have never even thought (I could). That was good, something new,” she commented.
At four-under-par, the chasing pack includes Ariya Jutanugarn and Sung Hyun Park, who could both become world number one with a victory in Scotland, as well as Norwegian rookie Karoline Lund, England’s Charley Hull, Korean Haeji Kang, Scotland’s Kelsey MacDonald and Australian Minjee Lee.
Fellow Scot Catriona Matthew had a steady round of two-under in front of her home fans, including her two young daughters, who watched from the first tee grandstand and there was also a strong start from Dame Laura Davies, who threatened to go low when she grabbed four birdies in her first 11 holes, but a run of five closing bogeys saw her sign for a one-over 72
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