(LANCASHIRE, ENGLAND – Friday 31st July 2009) – Scotland’s Catriona Matthew holed-in-one at the 12th in a round of five-under-par 67 to share the halfway lead at the RICOH Women’s British Open. She tied at three-under-par 141 with Italian Giulia Sergas, who also shot 67.

Matthew went out in two-over 37, but came in with a seven-under score of 30 for the lowest back nine recorded in any championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England.

She scored an eagle three on the 11th before holing out from 152 yards with an eight-iron at the 12th hole.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had two eagles in a row,” said the North Berwick golfer, who added four more birdies and a bogey over the last six holes. “I’d had a bad few holes and was struggling but that eagle settled me down.”

She said the back nine was playing easier than on Thursday, on account of the opposite wind direction.

“The front nine was probably more into the wind probably more going out and the back nine played more downwind,” she said. “A little change in wind direction can make a huge difference on links courses but you’ve still got to hit the shots.”

Matthew won the 1993 British Ladies Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham but her best finish at the professional British Women’s Open was a tie for third in 2001 at Sunningdale.

Since turning professional in 1994 she has earned five victories around the world but never a major championship.

Her best finish in a major was equal runner-up at the 2007 Kraft Nabiso Championship, her second tournament back after the birth of Katie, her first child.

Matthew, who will turn 40 next month, is now playing in her second event back after the birth of her most recent arrival, daughter Sophie, 10 ½ weeks ago. At the Evian Masters last week, Matthew finished equal 30th having escaped a fire with her husband-caddie Graeme on the eve of the tournament. She joked that she played better after recovering from pregnancy, “Maybe I started too late,” she said.

Sergas, her closest rival, has not won in almost 10 years as a pro. The 29-year-old’s career best finish was a tie for second at the 2004 ShopRite LPGA Classic, the same year she tied for fifth at the Weetabix Women’s British Open at Sunningdale.

She fired five birdies in six holes from the 11th, with four in a row from the 13th and said: “My round was great. I played good from No.1 on. My driver was straight; my irons were in the middle and some good putts went in.”

Japan’s Yuko Mitsuka carded a second successive solid round of 71 to finish a stroke back in third on two-under for the tournament. Her round included four birdies, one bogey and a double bogey at the seventh, where she zig-zagged down the fairway. The 24-year-old from Mito City said that she is enjoying her first visit to Britain, having “relaxed” after Thursday’s first round with a ride on “The Big One,” a giant roller coaster in Blackpool.

South Korean Song-Hee Kim finished in fourth on one-under-par, with Yani Tseng, Christina Kim and Kyeong Bae a shot back in a share of fifth.

Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson finished at one-over in a share of eighth with the 2009 Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open champion, Marianne Skarpnord from Norway.

Skarpnord’s round of 69 contained five birdies on the back nine and put her in the hunt for a place on Europe’s Solheim Cup team.

The Norwegian is currently 12th on the European Solheim Cup standings from which the top five will be automatically selected on Sunday evening. She needs a top eight finish to overtake Gustafson, should the Swede finish outside the top 20 places.