South Korean Mirim Lee fired a stunning opening 10-under-par 62 on the Marquess’ Course at Woburn Golf Club on Thursday to equal the lowest ever round in the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
On a day of excellent scoring, Lee took a three stroke lead over Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, with China’s Shanshan Feng a stroke further back in third. Local player Charley Hull opened with a 69, while world number one Lydia Ko had a disappointing 74.
The 25-year-old Lee, from the town of Youngin, shot 10 birdies, including six on the front nine for an outward half of 30. Playing through sunshine and showers, she then picked up four more shots at holes 10, 11, 14 and 17 to come home in 32 strokes.
“It was probably one of my best ever rounds, although I still had some errant shots,” said the world number 31, who incredibly is Korea’s 13th ranked woman golfer.
Minea Blomqvist of Finland set the championship record with a third round of 10-under 62 at Sunningdale in 2004, the year that Karen Stupples won with a record total of 269, 19-under-par. Although Blomqvist’s 62 is the lowest in the event, South Korean Hyo-Joo Kim fired a first round of 10-under-par 61 at the 2014 Evian Championship in France, which is also a Major Championship. It looks as though those records could be under threat if fine conditions persist this week.
Jutanugarn, who won three straight titles in May, also made a perfect start to the championship, with seven birdies in an opening 65. The long-hitting 20-year-old from Bangkok took the driver out of her bag, preferring to use her 2-iron to plot her way around the tree-lined layout while Feng also had a bogey-free round.
American Stacy Lewis, the 2013 champion at St Andrews, lies in a tie for fourth with South Korea’s Mi Hyang Lee and Mo Martin, the 2014 winner at Royal Birkdale, is in a group at four-under-par.
Playing on her home course, Hull finished with a pair of birdies for a round of 69 and said: “I said to my caddie, I need to make a couple of birdies coming in, and I did. It was nice to start with a birdie, as well, and I’m pretty happy with myself because I was pretty nervous on that first tee.”
The Ladies European Tour’s Order of Merit leader Beth Allen opened with a two-under 69 and of the other notables in the field, Liz Young, playing at six-and-a-half months pregnant, carded a one-over-par 73.
The 33-year-old from Hampshire, said: “It was a bit of a challenge. It was the first time I played 18 holes this week. So it was nice to get it done. But yeah, I played some steady golf out there.”
By contrast, Ko, who has been practising at Woburn since last week, said: “Nothing was really that great. My short game wasn’t that great to cover up for the missed shots and when I did hit it close, the putts didn’t go in. When that’s the case, you’re not going to shoot a low score. But hopefully a few more putts drop tomorrow. I’ve just got to stay positive. There’s still a lot of golf to be played, and just hit one shot at a time. It’s not an easy course but by the looks of it, it’s playing easy for a couple of the girls. But it’s because they are playing great.”
The second round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open starts at 6.30am on Friday, followed by a cut to the leading 65 and ties for the weekend.