Haeji Kang, So Yeon Ryu lead
HOYLAKE, England -- So Yeon Ryu won the U.S. Women's Open last summer in Colorado and backed it up with a victory last month in the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic.
The 22-year-old South Korean player made another big statement Thursday at Royal Liverpoool in her Women's British Open debut, shooting a 2-under 70 for a share of the first-round lead with Haeji Kang.
"After I won (in Toledo), I was a little more relieved and that helped me a lot," Ryu said. "How can I say, even when I was winning the U.S. Women's Open, a lot of people said it might be just one tournament or just a darkhorse like that. But after I won the Toledo championship, I broke that."
Coming off a victory last week in a Korean LPGA event, Ryu had five birdies and two bogeys in relatively calm conditions on the difficult links course.
"This is my first time played in England, so I never played this type of golf course," Ryu said. "It's really tough, but fun. Always the first experience, really fun and a little tough, but I want to enjoy this type of golf course.
"Actually, Tuesday and Wednesday was so bad, so today feels like a really great weather. But you know, in Korea it was a little really strong wind, and a little different from this course. This wind might not be a bad wind. I think today the weather was really great."
The 2-under leading score is the highest in the first round since the tournament became a major in 2002.
The 21-year-old Kang, also from South Korea, had six birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey.
"I hit it pretty good out there," said Kang, winless on the LPGA Tour. "My iron shots were just inside 20 feet all the time, so I could just putt it out."
She hit 13 greens in regulation and needed only 27 putts in her morning round.
"Oh, it was much better this morning," Kang said. "As soon as I made the turn, it started blow. But I played yesterday the practice round with the rain, also, so I'm ready."
Australia's Karrie Webb, the tournament winner in 1995, 1997 and 2002, was a stroke back along with 16-year-old English amateur Charley Hull, Jiyai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Mika Miyazato, Stacey Keating, Lydia Hall, Vicky Hurst and Kate Kutcher.
"I think it counts for a little bit," Webb said about her experience in the event. "But you've still got to go out there and hit the shot, and you've got to commit to the lines that you want to hit your shots on. ... There's a lot of links courses that there's a side to miss on, and I don't think this course, especially off the tee, there's a side to miss on. You've just got to get up there and hit a good shot."
Shin, the 2008 winner at Sunningdale, won the Kingsmill Championship on Monday in Virginia, beating Paula Creamer on the ninth hole of a playoff.
Women's British Open Leaderboard
T-1. Ryu (-2)
T-1. Kang (-2)
3. 9 tied at (-1)
• Complete scores
Two-time defending champion Yani Tseng opened with a 72. She played alongside Ai Miyazato and Creamer.
"I feel pretty good, first day of the tournament," Tseng said. "I feel like I'm hitting so many good shots out there, making some good putts to save the par, and I'm very happy and very enjoyed playing with Ai and Paula today. It's a four-day tournament, just have to be patient on this tough golf course, and today maybe it's kind of a good day to make some more birdies but I don't think you want to try too hard out there, because the harder you try, the worse you get."
Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old amateur coming off a victory three weeks ago in the Canadian Women's Open, also shot a 72.
"This is one of the hardest golf courses I have ever played," said Ko, the youngest winner in LPGA Tour history. "But shooting even par is a pretty good start."
The South Korean-born New Zealander won the New South Wales Open in Australia in January and took the U.S. Women's Amateur last month.
"I think some people say that I should be able to win again, but I mean, you never know," she said. "You could be playing good the day before and not so good the day after, and I think that's all about golf, you play every shot and every round. Yeah, they are probably expecting a big thing from me and yeah, but I'm not going to take that much interest. Just got to play my own game. It's not like I'm going to play any better by thinking that they want me to play really good."
Creamer had a 73.
"I played really well all day and hit a lot of great shots," Creamer said. "I just had seven three-putts or something, missed a lot of short putts -- birdie opportunities."
Michelle Wie had a 75.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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