It took something absolutely sensational to outshine Sarah Jane Smith at the Women’s British Open today.
But, as has increasingly been the case in an impressive LPGA Tour season, the ever-improving Smith took care of business in one of the best major championship rounds of her career.
Smith, 32, fired a blemish-free 68 at Woburn Golf Club to sit six behind record-breaking Mirim Lee, but still very well placed at T6 after round one.
Fellow Queenslander Karrie Webb found a spark today and poured in five birdies in her three-under round of 69, while Minjee Lee was the only other Aussie red numbers at 71.
Su Oh (73), Rebecca Artis (75) and Stacey Keating (78) will all need something special to forge back into contention.
Smith, 32, a passionate Australian who only narrowly missed on qualifying for last week’s International Crown, has quietly been amassing a nice record on the 2016 LPGA Tour.
Three top-20s in her past 10 events in which she hasn’t missed a cut is testament to the improving consistency she has shown – and birdies on the third, fourth, 12th and 14th holes at Woburn Golf Club underscored that form.
Webb, whose clubs only arrived in time from the USA that she could play one practice round for the year’s fourth major, opened hot with four birdies in seven holes and fought hard to fire a 69.
But the day belonged to South Korean Lee, whose 62 matched the tournament low of Minea Blomqvist’s set during the third round at Sunningdale in 2004.
The blemish-free round was good for a three-shot edge of red-hot Thai Ariya Jutanugarn and was just one shy of the women’s majors record owned by her compatriot Hyo-Joo Kim during the first round of The Evian Championship in 2014.
Lee opened her round with birdies on the 1st, 2nd and 4th and then added five more on consecutive holes from the 7th before completing her round with further advances on the 14th and 17th holes.
“It might be the best round I’ve ever played,” said the Dallas-based Lee
“I once shot 11-under during the third round of the LPGA Q-School and it just so happens my caddie that day (American veteran John Killeen) was my caddie today.”
So relaxed has Lee been this week that she’s been as much tourist as golfer with trips to London to take in the sights.
“I wanted to play in the British (Open) last year, but I was injured so it’s good I’m here this week because I got to spend some time in London and do the touristy things. I went to Buckingham Palace and to Harrods and after that it was time to put my game face on.”
“I’m just trying to have fun. At the beginning of the year things weren’t going very well for me but I put a lot of work into it and it (feels) natural (and) paying off now.”
Remarkably on a day for good scoring, world No.1 Lydia Ko played herself to the brink of non-contention with a two-over-par 74.