A pair of eagle twos in a 66 saw Japan’s Miki Saiki take the outright lead on the second morning at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
The 28-year-old from Higashihiroshima was five-under-par for her first seven holes and went to the turn in six-under 30. From there, a level par back nine of 36 was enough to see her finish on nine-under-par after 36 holes, a stroke clear of American Morgan Pressel.
Saiki’s 66 tied the lowest score of the championship with first round co-leaders Camilla Lennarth and Pressel. She played in changeable conditions on Friday morning, through sunny spells and heavy rain showers, before the skies cleared and wind speeds increased for the afternoon.
Saiki has a strong record on The Old Course at St Andrews, as she finished in seventh place when the championship was first played at the venue six years ago. That year, she had a tournament low-round of 67.
“I think it’s just fortunate I feel confident playing this course,” said Saiki, through an interpreter. “I think you need the right course management.”
This was the first time that she had two eagles on par fours in a round and explained: “The first one on No. 4 was 127 yards to the hole and a shot with an 8‑iron. The one on 7 was 108 yards to the pin. It went on the green.”
Saiki, who enjoys shopping for jewellery, won twice on the LPGA of Japan in April and is in a rich vein of form.
She has a chance to become the second Japanese winner of a women’s major championship following Hisako Higuchi, who was the first Asian winner of a major when she won the 1977 LPGA Championship.
Japan’s Ayako Okamoto won the Women’s British Open at Woburn in 1984, before it became a major championship in 2001.
|Miki Saiki and caddie crossing the Swilken Burn on The Old Course|
Just a stroke behind Saiki, Pressel, the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Champion, from Florida, appeared pleased with her flawless second-round 70, containing two birdies.
“I played very well today. Didn’t really put myself in any trouble. I only had one par putt of maybe about six or seven feet on 11 that was a tap‑in. There’s a lot of birdie putts out there.
“I gave myself a lot of chances and they were scaring the hole but just didn’t go in. On the last hole, I was ready to give a big fist‑pump but that was in the middle of the hole but it was on the low side,” Pressel said.
Norwegian Suzann Pettersen was well placed just two strokes off the lead on seven-under-par after a 67.
Like most of the field, she made her score on the front nine in the becalmed morning conditions, before the breeze picked up and blew into the back nine.
Pettersen said: “Very happy with this round. Got off to a fairly quick start. Gave myself plenty of chances and don’t feel like I left anything out there really. Finishing stretch is quite a few tough holes, so if you want to play smart, you’re still leaving yourself a lot of long approaches. I think it’s just hard to hit them close.
“I had a good night’s sleep and just kept digging at it.It feels like the wind, not as much as we had, but got to play smart on the way out, smart on the way in.
“I think I had the worst part of the draw last year. But I’m very happy with the way I played. Feeling great with my putter, so that’s for me a very, very good sign.
“Just got to go out and keep doing what I’m doing, giving myself a lot of great chances, playing smart, trying to play to my strengths and not really take too many risks of being greedy off the tee and so far it’s paid off.
“Every time you turn a corner coming around the hotel down 17, it’s always a spectacular view and it’s always stunning every single time. So really just trying to take it all in and enjoy myself.”