The eyes of the golfing world are on Inbee Park this week as she goes in pursuit of her fourth straight major championship. However, another talented South Korean stole the limelight in the second round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open on Friday.
Playing under deceptively sunny Scottish skies that belied the strong breeze blowing across the links, world No.4 Na Yeon Choi gave a dominant display on The Old Course at St Andrews.
A second consecutive round of 67 gave her a 36-hole total of 10-under-par and a one stroke lead over Japan’s Miki Saiki.
American Morgan Pressel continued her solid play from Thursday to end in third on eight-under, with American Nicole Castrale, Norway’s Suzann Pettersen and South Korean Jee Young Lee on seven-under in joint fourth.
The key to Choi’s round was her masterful performance on the difficult, breezy back nine, playing with a cross-wind, which was affecting the direction of the putts on the greens.
With birdies on 12 and 15, combined with seven steady pars, the willowy 25-year-old from Seoul came home in 34 and was one of only a handful of players to play the back nine under par.
“I’m very satisfied the last two rounds. You know, especially today, the weather wasn’t good. It was very hard. But my focus was very good and my caddie helped me a lot,” said Choi, the US Women’s Open champion in 2012. “And you know, I had a daily goal every day so I just tried to stick with the goal. It could be like par is 74 or 75 today, but I didn’t care, like every hole, par 3, par 4, par 5, doesn’t matter for me. I just try to play one shot at a time and I think that’s why I had great results.”
Playing partner Liz Young, who shot 75 to lie on one-under, said that Choi’s laser accuracy and putting were impressive: “If she continues to play like that she deserves to win.”
Choi’s caddie, David Jones, a professional golfer at Bushfoot golf course in Portballintae, Ireland, credited Choi’s pure ball striking.
Jones knows a thing or two about The Old Course, having caddied for Garth Maydin at The Open Championship in 2010 and at two Dunhill Championships. In fact, he plans to attend European Tour School in September.
He said: “She’s an excellent ball striker and can control the numbers like nobody I’ve ever seen.”
Asian players have won 16 of the last 23 majors played since the championship was first played at St Andrews in 2007, including the last 10 and are once again showing their talents.
World No.1 Inbee Park, who won the first three majors of the season, sits eight shots off the lead heading into the weekend and cannot be ruled out of the title race.