Ash Struggles on the Old Course
South Africa’s Ashleigh Simon found the going tough on day one of the Women’s British Open, and suffered a double-bogey on each nine to go with four bogies for the day to finish the day four over-par, and 10 shots behind overnight leader, the world number one Lorena Ochoa.
Playing at the historic Old Course at St Andrews, the fabled home of professional golf, Simon managed only two birdies on day one, and signed for a round of 77 at the 73-par course.
Meanwhile Mexico’s Ochoa made the best of the first Women’s professional event ever to be played at the grand golf course, and got her challenge off to a flying start with a sensational six-under-par 67, to give her the first round lead at the Women’s British Open.
The 25-year-old found herself two strokes clear of Sweden’s Louise Friberg, 27, and South Korean rookie In-Bee Park, 19, at the end of the first day’s play, and as no women’s professional tournament had previously been staged on the historic links, Ochoa’s was a course record.
England’s Rebecca Hudson finished the day in joint fourth position on three-under-par alongside Japanese sensation Ai Miyazato, after firing a trio of birdies on the back nine.
Ochoa’s spotless round included a run of three birdies from the eighth hole, while a 140-yard approach shot on the 15th fell just two feet past the hole for what would have been a fantastic eagle.
Her early morning wake-up call came at the unsavoury time of 5am, two hours before she was due on the first tee.
“I don’t mind that. I’m a morning person,” she said. Many of the players hinted that the secret to cracking the Old Course’s unforgiving terrain was in the lag putting.
However, Ochoa’s approach play was so tight that she rarely faced a putt longer than 10 feet. “Did I expect the score I did? I had one in my head but it was even better than I thought,” she said.
“Once you start playing and you see the good conditions and you feel the good rhythm, you’re like, ‘okay, let’s go, let’s try to go 6 , 7 under’. “So we tried to take advantage on the back and make something really special, and it was good.”
Ochoa may have been referencing the woman she usurped as the world number one when she answered a question about her prior knowledge of the course.
Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam has been troubled by a back injury for most of the year, and ended her first round at St Andrews five shots off the lead – despite borrowing Tiger Woods’ yardage book which offered tips on how to play the course.
“I’m very simple player,” said Ochoa. “I don’t like too much information. For me, it’s just better to get out there and just picture the shot and be even more free – just do what I feel instead of having too much information in my head.”
Hudson took advantage of her fine links education, having played several rounds on the Old Course as an amateur. “I played really well, very sensible golf,” the 28-year-old said. “No bogeys, no bunkers.”
There were three birdies on the course – and a few which affected her off the course. She explained: “I’ve rented a house with (pros) Kirsty Taylor and Kirsty Fisher and there’s an aviary next door. They are lovely at 4am!”
Friberg, who birdied the 18th to take second place, also had reasons to be cheerful. “The past week I’ve been hitting the ball really, really well,” said the 27-year-old, who had not played the Old Course prior to this week.
“On the driving range and during the practice rounds I was hitting the ball well but you know there are certain areas of this course that you might end up in.”
“You never know what’s going to happen with the wind but I had a good feeling.”
First-round play at the Ricoh Women’s British Open was suspended at 9:20 p.m. on Thursday due to darkness with two groups remaining on the Old Course at St. Andrews.
Six players, who are all currently on hole 16, will resume the first round at 6:30 am. to finish three holes. Second-round play will also begin at 6:30 am.