US Women’s Open champion Minjee Lee is just three strokes from the lead following the opening round of the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield in Scotland.
Muirfield’s first staging of this Championship has generated considerable excitement and fans were certainly not left disappointed on Thursday as scoring proved lower than many had anticipated despite the presence of a stiff breeze for much of the day.
Hinako Shibuno, the Champion of 2019 at Woburn, was the class of the field, carding eight birdies on her way to a six-under 65 that put her one ahead of American Jessica Korda and two better than Louise Duncan and Mexico’s Gaby Lopez.
World No.2 Lee also started strongly, shooting 68 to share fifth with Maja Stark, In Gee Chun, Celine Boutier and Jodi Ewart Shadoff, while 2015 Champion Inbee Park ended the day a shot further back.
Sydney’s Stephanie Kyriacou opened with a round of one-under 70 to be in a share of 13th as fellow Aussies Hannah Green (71) and Whitney Hillier (72) also made solid starts.
But once again it is Lee who leads the Australian charge.
The 26-year-old was one-over and well down the leaderboard through her first six holes before her game clicked into gear.
A long-range birdie putt across the green at the par-3 seventh turned the momentum of her round, draining another putt from 20 feet for birdie at the par-4 12th to enter red figures.
A chip-in birdie at the par-4 14th was the type of bonus necessary to win major championships, adding a third birdie in the space of six holes at the par-5 17th to finish at three-under and in a tie for fifth.
Given a somewhat slow start, Lee was pleased to pick up ground late on some of Muirfield’s tougher holes.
“I made really quite a few good up-and-downs on the back nine,” said Lee, who is looking to wrap up the Rolex Annika Major Award this week.
“To be three-under the back nine, I think is quite good considering like 14 and 15, they play really tough.
“I feel like I was quite committed on every shot that I hit because it was so windy. I think I did that
really well today.”
Tied for 13th 12 months ago at Carnoustie, Kyriacou once again displayed her adeptness on the Scottish links.
The 21-year-old began her championship with 14 consecutive pars but after a dropped shot at the 15th birdied the closing two holes – including holing a 30-footer at the last – to sit inside the top 15 at one-under par.
“Everything was kind of just average, I guess,” Kyriacou surmised.
“I wasn’t hitting anything really all that close and I was kind of scrambling.
“When it’s windy like this, there’s not much you can do about it.
“The course is great. It’s nice and firm like a links course should be. Holed a long putt on the last to get to 1-under, so that was a nice way to top it off.”
Birdies at five and 17 were offset by back-to-back bogeys at 13 and 14 in Hannah Green’s round of 71 as Whitney Hillier had five bogeys and four birdies for her opening round of 72.
Dropped shots at each of her first two holes was a difficult start to Su Oh’s championship, the Victorian posting six-over 77 in Round 1.
Round 1 scores
1 Hinako Shubino 65
T5 Minjee Lee 68
T13 Stephanie Kyriacou 70
T26 Hannah Green 71
T44 Whitney Hillier 72
T118 Su Oh 77
Round 2 tee times AEST
4.47pm Lydia Ko (NZ), Nasa Hataoka, Leona Maguire
4.58pm Minjee Lee, Jin Young Ko, Nelly Korda
8.21pm Whitney Hillier, Aditi Ashok, Angela Stanford
9.49pm Hannah Green, Ayaka Furue, Jeongeun Lee6
11.11pm Stephanie Kyriacou, Albane Valenzuela, Emma Talley
11.55pm Su Oh, Jeongeun Lee5, Olivia Cowan