(Field Level Media) Lydia Ko had been looking forward to the blue skies at the Belfry Golf Club, so when her 10-foot birdie putt rolled by the cup late Thursday evening, all she could do was laugh.
The 73 she recorded in her first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open was easily the best of the 19-year-old New Zealander, who, after her win here last year, becomes the youngest ever to win the prestigious event. She was only three shots behind the leader, fellow Kiwi Michele Wie, after three rounds that were completed on Friday.
Ko, trying to win her fourth straight tournament, had three birdies and a bogey in a round she called “so frustrating.”
“My numbers were good,” she said. “I drove it well, so I was hitting it well in good spots … I just didn’t have that go-for-it mentality that I’ve shown throughout the year.”
Wie shot a 66 Thursday and she completed the grueling grueling round without a bogey.
“I had a lot of control on every shot,” she said. “I wasn’t aggressive enough, but I was smart on the golf course and knew how to get the ball close.”
Another contender is Kim Kaufman, who was two strokes back after shooting a 67, followed by defending champion Sun Young Yoo. Michelle Wie, playing alongside Ko, sat two strokes back at one under.
Also at one under were fellow Americans Caroline Masson, Brittany Lincicome and Belen Mozo.
The cut was at three over par, meaning that 148 players advanced to play 36 holes on Friday.
A pair of New Zealanders, Brittany Lang and Ellie Campbell, teed off in the third round on Friday.
As a player often considered to be among the most challenging in the game, Wie said her game is starting to come around.
“I hit my ball in the middle of the fairway [Thursday] … my ball-striking is starting to come back,” she said. “I got off to a really bad start last year at this event, and I have not played my best golf the last few months or so. Just finally starting to play my best golf again.”
The course has become more than tough as the wind becomes stronger with more improvement expected with a full day under the local breeze and dry and clear conditions in the afternoon.
It’s like “freesider if he played in the old days, kind of,” one spectator said.
Despite a long day of play on Thursday, the action had been interrupted by one of the most unusual weather phenomena that can occur in Britain during a typical summer. Storm Tomas suddenly hit before the tournament could finish.
“I hope it was a bit of hype coming in from Louis,” Wie said, referring to the weatherman who was calling the storm “something huge.”
It had never happened to her before, she said.
It meant the putt for Wie would have to be putt for her again on Friday afternoon. She had a 20-footer for par stopped for a tap-in bogey and a 2-over 72 on the opening day.
Wie had a 74 in her victory at the 2010 match play event and she’d like to do the same thing this year.
“I have it within me to do it,” she said. “I just have to execute, go out and do what I did last year and come in tomorrow with the same confidence, and that is really important for me going forward.”