Wie storms into British Open lead

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ST ANDREWS, United Kingdom: Michelle Wie fired a course-record 64 at Kingsbarns to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the Women’s British Open on Thursday (Friday in Manila).

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The 27-year-old American struck lucky with her tee time and made the most of the early, benign conditions to lead South Korea’s Kim In-Kyung atop the leaderboard on eight under par.

For the afternoon starters, horrendous rainstorms forced a couple of delays.

But the intermittent downpours didn’t stop British favorite Laura Davies from rolling back the years. A British Open winner in 1986, 15 years before it became a major, the 53-year-old birdied the 18th hole for a four-under-par 68.

Michelle Wie of the United States plays a shot on the 16th fairway on the first day of the 2017 Women’s British Open Golf Championships at Kingsbarns Golf Links near St. Andrews, east Scotland, on Friday. AFP PHOTO

Having had to qualify, Davies said it would be “ludicrous” to suggest she could win. But she did remind everyone that a 59-year-old Tom Watson nearly won the Open in 2009. “Links is a great leveller,” she said.

A teenage phenomenon, Wie has had a rollercoaster ride on the LPGA Tour. She won the 2014 US Women’s Open, but a catalog of ailments have blighted her progress.

“I’ve had a lot of injuries the last two years, and I was starting to take things too seriously,” she reflected after the eight-under round.

“But I’ve got to remember that golf is only a game. I’m lucky to be playing it for a living so I want to enjoy it.”

Asked if she was fully fit, she retorted: “I’m not going to answer that. I’ve said I’m fine in the past and then something has happened.”

Wie’s best result in the British Open was a tie for third on her debut as a 15-year-old at Royal Birkdale in 2005. But the nine-birdie round raised her hopes of collecting a second major title.

She has stashed a few new clubs in her bag in recent weeks, with nine and 11 woods replacing her mid-irons. “It’s a sign I’m getting old,” she joked.

She used both to good effect over the scenic course on Scotland’s Fife coast.

But her round started poorly, as she skulled a wedge shot across over the green and dropped a shot at the par-five second. “At that stage, I was thinking more of shooting par than course records,” she admitted.

But Wie managed to get on a roll, making birdies at the fourth, sixth, eighth, 11th, 12th, 14th and then at the final three holes. A 15-footer at the last was one of her longest putts and it completed a six-under-par back nine of 30.

For Kim, a first major would help erase haunting memories of when she missed a one-foot putt to lose the 2012 ANA Inspiration at Rancho Mirage in California. She had eight birdies to finish the day alone in second, one ahead of American Lindy Duncan.

Defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn and world number one Ryu So-Yeon were playing together and both shot one-under rounds of 71.

World number two Lexi Thompson was the third member of that marquee group and the best-placed after a birdie at the last sealed a 67.

AFP

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