Golf: No rain, no problem as Minjee Lee leads British Open

Australia's Minjee Lee putts on the 15th green on the first day of the 2018 Women's British Open.
Australia's Minjee Lee putts on the 15th green on the first day of the 2018 Women's British Open.PHOTO: AFP

LYTHAM ST ANNES, United Kingdom (AFP) - Australia's Minjee Lee packed six birdies and an eagle into a round of seven under par 65 to lead the first round of the Women's British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

By the luck of the draw, the 22-year-old missed the morning rain and she made the most of the sunny and relatively benign conditions to finish atop the leaderboard.

Now she's hoping to go on and complete an impressive fortnight in by going one better than last week's runner-up spot behind Ariya Jutanugarn in the Ladies Scottish Open at Gullane.

"I had a really fun time in Scotland and playing on another links course has definitely helped me coming in to this major," said the youngster.

"I've had a pretty good season with lots of top tens and the key today was that I stayed out of too much trouble.

"I was in four bunkers but managed to hole a few longish putts - overall it was pretty good."

Japan's Mamiko Higa was alone in second place on 66 with England's Georgia Hall and world number three Park Sung-hyun, in the group on 67.

Kim In-kyung, the defending champion, had a 70, while world number one Ariya Jutanugarn, who won the title in 2016, was on one under par 71 and two shots behind her older sister, Moriya.

But no one could match Lee.

Aiming to become the first Australian winner since Karrie Webb at Turnberry in 2002, the highlight was an eagle from 30 feet at the long 15th and her only mistake was an up and down bogey from a bunker at the 17th.

Hall, last year's European number one, finished joint third at Kingsbarns in Scotland last year and the home 22-year-old again showed her liking for links courses with a flawless five-birdie round, including three in a row from the 13th.

INJURY FORCES WIE TO QUIT

"I couldn't ask for more," said Hall, who had her father, Wayne, acting as her caddie.

"Putting was the key today, and staying out of trouble. I plotted my way round very well.

"A lot has happened since this event last year. I played in the Solheim Cup a few weeks later and I'm now much more mature, and more confident. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the championship."

Higa had six birdies and a bogey and was delighted with her opening effort.

"It is a dream to be playing in the British Open," said the Japanese Tour player.

"It's an honour to be here and I managed to stay very relaxed for the hole round."

New Zealand's Lydia Ko, the two-time major winner and former world number one, kept in contention for a first British Open with a 68.

 

It was a good bounce back for the 21-year-old, who missed the cut at the Scottish Open.

"I actually played OK, but couldn't hole a putt last week," she said.

"It ended up being quite funny because it was so bad."

England's Florentyna Parker had a hole in one at the ninth - an eight iron from 140 yards - and she went on to shoot a fine 69.

Meanwhile, Michelle Wie said she was "devastated" after a longstanding hand injury forced her to pull out.

Playing in frequent rain showers, the 28-year-old American was on seven over par after 12 holes before deciding she could not continue.

"I've been doing everything humanly possible to get my hand healthy enough to play this week," she said on Twitter.

"But it wasn't enough. I gave it my all today, but I couldn't stand the pain any longer.

"I felt if I kept pushing it then I could make it even worse. But I'm devastated to have to pull out mid-round."

Her best finish in the only British major is tied third - on her debut as a 15-year-old at Royal Birkdale in 2005 and again at Kingsbarns in Scotland 12 months ago.

Wie has just one major victory, at the 2014 US Women's Open, but she ended a four-year trophy drought when she claimed the HSBC Women's World Championship in March.