Teenagers Lydia Ko, Charley Hull start strong
HOYLAKE, England -- Figuratively and literally, the early starters were all over the place Thursday for the first round of the Women's British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
Almost from the start, they were fretting over the need to keep up speed under the Ladies Golf Union's stringent pace-of-play regime. And they were in and out of the rough on a links course that is as long and tough as any they have known in the event's history.
Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson and Kaori Ohe were on the clock from the halfway stage, and Yani Tseng was also in trouble. She was given what they call "a bad time" on the 11th green and was uncomfortably aware that, if she had another, she would have been the recipient of a penalty shot.
"We were running down the fairways," Tseng said after she and 15-year-old Ko shot par 72, two behind leaders So Yeon Ryu and Haeji Kang. Tseng's Wednesday plans of "walking down the fairway like a champion" were truly decimated as she scurried hither and thither.
Ko's reaction to being followed by the officials was typical of this phlegmatic soul, the recent winner of the Canadian Open. She saved time by reducing her next hole to a birdie. After dropping a shot at the 11th, she completed her 18 holes with six pars and another birdie.
Guy Wilson, the coach who is doubling as Ko's caddie this week, was entirely happy with everything except his pupil's play on and around the greens.
"Lydia played good solid golf," he said before suggesting that her short game was not quite all it could have been. "Usually, she gets up and down from everywhere, but today she didn't. We'll be working on it this afternoon."
Meanwhile, one of England's own young amateurs was shaping well. Someone had the sense to assure 16-year-old Charley Hull that it didn't matter one bit that she was no longer the youngest kid on the block.
Hull's two birdies and nine straight pars coming home were the stuff of someone who had years of experience under her belt. She has more than enough confidence to make up for anything she might lack in that department.
For a start, she revels in being faced with difficult, wind-tossed links: "I like them long, and I like them narrow."
When Hull had a 1-under-par opener in the Kraft Nabisco, she shot an anticlimactic 77 in the second round. She wasted no time in analyzing where she went wrong that day: "I felt the pressure and I started hitting it really hard, too hard. When it came to the third round, I stopped doing that. I hit lots of half-shots and three-quarter shots and had a 68, which should have been even lower."
Hull, like Ko, will be playing in the Women's World Amateur Team championships in Turkey next month. For Hull, it will be her last outing as an amateur.
In playing on the winning Curtis Cup side in May, Hull missed out on her school boards. However, there is no question she will be in the right place at the right time when it comes to the Ladies European Tour's Qualifying School. Having made the cut in four out of the four professional tournaments in which she teed up before this week, she cannot wait to start playing for pay.
It seems like no more than five minutes ago that Carly Booth was labeled the brightest talent on the golfing planet. At 11, the Scot was the youngest winner of the Dunblane GC Ladies championship.
Now 20, she struggled in her first two years as a professional but suddenly came good at the start of this year as she put the focus on trying to enjoy herself. First she won a mini-tour event; next the Scottish Open at Archerfield; and, most recently, the Swiss Open.
The Scot, who is at the top of the Ladies European Tour's money list, started out as a favorite for this week, but her first round did not exactly go as planned. She followed a couple of pars with a couple of double bogeys and was out in a 4-over-par 40. Nor was she showing much sign of putting things to rights coming home.
There were three bogeys to set against three birdies but, in returning a 77, she never departed from the goals she had set on Wednesday. On the grounds that it would be impossible to avoid all the Hoylake hazards, she had promised that she would take things a hole at a time and stay patient.
If the teenage brigade wanted to be reminded that there is no great hurry to master this game, they had only to look at the 37-year-old Karrie Webb. This winner of seven majors handed in the most relaxed of the 71s. The days when everyone would heap expectations on her shoulders are long since gone.