MILTON KEYNES (England) • On a windless Thursday at the Women's British Open, the world's best female golfers went on a birdie barrage at the Woburn Golf Club.
Leading the charge was South African Ashleigh Buhai, who shot a seven-under 65 to lead after the first round. She was one clear of Japan's Hinako Shibuno and American Danielle Kang.
A total of 20 players broke 70.
"In my last few tournaments I've had three good rounds and one not-so-good round, so I'm hoping this is the week I can do four good rounds," said Buhai, 30, whose best finish this year was a tie for 11th.
"The last few weeks I have been just trying to stay mellow and keep everything in check, and it seems to be helping."
Top-ranked Ko Jin-young was well positioned after a 68 in her quest for her third Major title of the year, after the ANA Inspiration in April and last week's Evian Championship in France.
"I'm not tired yet," said Ko, who added a 70 yesterday to be on six-under 138. "I will do my best for this week, and then I had just great playing today, so I'm just happy."
It was not always smooth sailing on the greens for the world No. 1, who had a four-putt double-bogey at the 14th hole, where she missed a couple of three-footers.
That setback might have demoralised some players, but the 24-year-old is made of sterner stuff. She bounced back by hitting the cup with her approach shots at the par-five 15th and 18th holes.
Though neither fell in for what would have been unlikely eagles, she converted the birdie putts.
"The back nine was a lot of putts missed," said Ko.
"I tried to finish strong and I got a birdie on the 18th. It was a huge birdie."
Buhai, who has never won on the LPGA Tour, made her only bogey on the par-five 11th but responded with three straight birdies on Nos. 14 to 16. Her best previous British Open finish was a tie for 30th in 2017.
"I had a bit of a wobble in the middle of my round and had three birdies to come in strong. I had a goal to get to seven when I saw the lead was six, so I holed like a 30-footer on the 16th that got me to seven," she said.
Kang, who won the Women's PGA Championship two years ago for her only Major, missed the cut at the Evian Championship, allowing her to arrive early in England.
"There might have been a little bit of a blessing in disguise. I came here on Saturday actually and I got a lot of rest, I played a few rounds," said the 26-year-old.
"I like being prepared in a proper way and competing in a proper way."
ASSOCIATED PRESS, REUTERS