Date: August 03, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Minjee makes a major splash


If you're a form analyst, Minjee Lee leading a golf tournament wasn't hard to foresee.

But the Women's British Open is no ordinary tournament – so Lee's sparkling opening round of seven-under-par 65 at Royal Lytham & St Annes is next level, even for the imperious young West Australian.

Lee, riding high after a runner-up finish to new world No.1 Ariya Jutanugarn at last week's Scottish Ladies Open, came south with even more impressive form.

She used no fewer than six birdies and an ultra-impressive eagle on the famous Lancashire links to soar to seven under and the overnight lead of a major championship for the first time.

And while there's plenty of work to be done before Sunday's finale, the strong feeling from the inner circle was that if her putting continues at today's clip, she'll be right in the mix.

"I holed quite a lot of putts today from far away – that really helped me," Lee said with trademark cheeky grin.

"I'm trying to (have) good course management … and an eagle on 15 helped me, too."

That help was the chief highlight of a round containing many. Caught in two minds between a hybrid and a "cut" three-wood for her second on the right of the par-five 15th fairway, the Royal Fremantle ace and world No.8 made a great call, reflecting her comfort with links golf.

"The lie was a little bit downhill so I ended up going with my hybrid and it trickled up to 25 feet under the hole. It was a good choice," she said.

And the putt was even better, curling hard left off a bunker shoulder late in its run and diving into the hole.

"If you play (links golf) every single week, I think it would be pretty draining," Lee said.

"But it’s a treat when we do get to play them."

That treat was also well received by unheralded Japanese Mamiko Higa, who carded a six-under 66 to sit outright second, while a host of fancied chances lie between three and five under, including former No.1s Lydia Ko, Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu.

None of which mattered to Lee, who was in her own little bubble on course.

"I knew i was hitting it really well coming in this week and I just went out and played my game because that's all I can control," she said.

Rebecca Artis, of New South Wales, was the next best Aussie in a share of 45th after a solid even-par 72 to begin, leaving her one shot clear of Su Oh with Sarah Kemp also handy a shot further back at two over.

Hannah Green and Katherine Kirk are tied for 102nd at three over, with Sarah Jane Smith and Karrie Webb needing to charge from five over when round two begins.