Ursula Wikstrom from Finland fired a five-under-par 67 over The Castle Course in St Andrews on Monday afternoon to lead the 22 players who qualified for the Ricoh Women’s British Open, which starts at Kingsbarns Golf Links on Thursday August 3rd.
Wikstrom made five birdies in generally fine conditions to make a welcome return to the championship after a two-year hiatus.
She said afterwards: “I was playing well on the par 5s. It started on four when I hit my second shot to five metres, so it was an easy birdie there. On nine, I hit the drive on the fringe, so there were quite a few two-putt birdies and no bogeys. I missed the cut last week so I played yesterday. My caddie has been here a little bit!”
Ursula’s caddie is her husband, Mika, who is a member of The R&A and a frequent visitor to St Andrews. The pair will enjoy working together in this week’s championship and she added: “It will be great to play this week, because it’s been a while. After a couple of rounds last week (in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open, I’m getting used to links golf again, because it’s a different type of game.”
Earlier in the day, Paula Creamer, Ashleigh Buhai and Tiffany Joh had rounds of 68 and all of those on three-under-par also qualified for the championship.
However, there was a tense play-off between 14 players on two-under-par for the 11 remaining spots. 10 players qualified with pars on the first extra hole, the short 10th and the remaining four players headed to the par 4 11th. After Laura Sedda was eliminated with a bogey, Nicole Garcia, Laura Murray and Swedish amateur Amanda Linner went to the par-5 15th, where Garcia sealed the final spot with a birdie after making up and down from long grass at the back of the green.
Creamer has been one of the most popular figures in the women’s game since 2005, and counts the 2010 US Women’s Open among her list of ten Tour titles. Her best finish in the Ricoh Women’s British Open came back in 2012 when she claimed third place at Royal Liverpool.
She said after her round: “It was a beautiful golf course. My caddie worked really hard, because it was the first time I had ever seen it. I teed off at 7:22 so I couldn’t do much preparation. After I played yesterday I came out and hit some putts and walked the last three or four holes. It’s an awesome little gem here. What a fun golf course to play.
“I had an eagle on the seventh. I hit driver, six-iron and it was literally hanging over the edge, it was almost a two. It was pretty cool. I birdied 17 and 18 and then birdied nine. It was a good birdie on 17, because that was a tough par 3. I made a good two on there with a putt from about 20 feet.”
Buhai said: “I’m very happy and I think that anything under par today was going to be good. I hit a lot of good shots and only missed two greens and the ball striking was really good. I left a few putts out there but overall I’ll take it. You’ve just got to be steady in qualifiers and take your birdies when they come. It’s more about keeping the bogeys off the card. I love the Women’s British Open and I missed getting in by a week this year, so I’ll be very chuffed to be able to play at Kingsbarns.”
Dame Laura Davies made par on the first play-off hole and will make her 37th consecutive appearance in her home Major, after having won the Women’s British Open back in 1986, as well as the 1987 US Women’s Open, the 1994 McDonald’s LPGA Championship, the 1996 McDonald’s LPGA Championship, the 1996 du Maurier Classic and almost 80 other titles around the world.