On a day of changeable weather conditions, Morgan Pressel of the United States made the most of the afternoon sunshine to post a six-under-par 66 and grab the clubhouse lead in the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

The 25-year-old from Boca Raton in Florida posted seven birdies and one dropped shot on the Old Course at St Andrews.

The 2007 Kraft Nabisco Champion was being closely pursued by South Korean Eun-Hee Ji, the 2009 US Women’s Open champion, with four top tens from 24 appearances in majors.

Ji was tied for the lead on six-under-par after 12 holes, but bogeyed the 13th to slip into a group of six players on five-under-par.

Pressel, who revealed that it took her some years to enjoy links golf, appears to have adapted perfectly and is enjoying the challenge, spurred on by her desire to qualify for the United States Solheim Cup team.

“Having played on three teams, it’s something that I don’t want to miss and something that I’m definitely thinking about, and at the same time, trying not to think about and trying to worry about focusing on this week.  That was my biggest goal coming into this week was not to think about Solheim Cup and I only thought about it maybe a handful of times on every shot ‑‑ not on every shot,” Pressel said.

“When it did come up, I tried to say, hey, there’s a lead out there and I’m trying to chase that lead.  I’m not worried about finishing in the Top‑20 or worried about my ranking or anything like that.  If I play my game, I’ll be on that team.”

Stacy Lewis, the world No.2, is just one stroke back on five-under and on the verge of making her second Solheim Cup appearance.

Lewis earned a 5-0 record at the 2008 Curtis Cup on the Old Course at St Andrews and it’s a course she adores.

“I love this course.  I loved it when I played Curtis Cup here.  I don’t know, I feel so comfortable here that it’s a much different feeling to any other British Open I’ve ever played just because I know the golf course,” said the 2011 Kraft Nabisco champion. “Usually you go to an Open and you have no clue where all the bunkers are and things like that, so I felt more comfortable.  But my goal every week is to give myself a chance to win on Sunday, and this is certainly a good start to getting there.

Na Yeon Choi, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Nicole Castrale and Ryann O’Toole are the other players at five-under, with Britons Liz Young, Catriona Matthew and Georgia Hall all in the clubhouse on four-under-par.

Swedes Pernilla Lindberg and Camilla Lennarth were also enjoying their afternoon in the sun at the Home of Golf, both at four-under after 13 and 16 holes respectively.

The formidable South Korean Inbee Park, trying to make history as the first player – male of female – to win four straight professional major championships in the same calendar year – opened with a three-under-par 69, in the early grey, drizzle.

Park was part of a large group on that number along with Caroline Hedwall, Sandra Gal, Florentyna Parker, Mikaela Parmlid, Katie Burnett, Marianne Skarpnord, Malene Jorgensen and 16-year-old amateur Lydia Ko.

Englishwoman Laura Davies is making her 33rd appearance in the Women’s British Open and carded a level par 72 to lie in a share of 75th position.

Davies needs to earn one more major championship to enter the Hall of Fame, as she currently has 80 official titles, including four majors.

However, a field of 144 players are competing in the fourth major of the season and after the first two days, or 36 holes, the leading 65 and ties go through to the third and fourth rounds.