Germany’s Sandra Gal birdied six of seven holes around the turn in her opening round this morning and dropped two shots coming home to set the clubhouse target at four-under-par 68 in the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
Rewind nine years and Gal tamed blustery conditions to post the first round lead of 69 the last time the championship was played at Royal Lytham in 2009. This time, she went one stroke lower, playing in mixed conditions that ranged from overcast to rain showers.
Gal said: “It’s nice to be back here in the same position and on this beautiful golf course. I kind of know my game better. I’m hitting certain shots more on purpose. I think before I was just very young and just kind of reacting to everything. So I feel like a little bit more adult and a little bit more grown up.”
Like Australian Minjee Lee, Gal has teamed up with Jordan Spieth’s coach Cameron McCormick in the last couple of months and says that he has made a big difference to her game.
“We just cleaned up my swing. No big changes, but I think he gave me a little confidence with left-hand low putting and just kind of minor adjustments with that and then hitting consistently with my irons, with my tee shots. And that also has given me a lot of confidence.
“He was there last week, so we worked a lot on shots on this firm ground. So that plays a little bit different, so I think hitting those little cuts is key for me just to trap the ball a little bit better and keeping that ball flight down.”
As play continued under sunny skies later in the afternoon, Lee had set a breath taking pace at seven-under after 15 holes.
The runner-up last week in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, who won the Vic Open at Barwon Heads, another links course, in February, Lee birdied the 13th to take the lead and then eagled the long 15th to move two ahead of the chasing pack.
Georgia Hall, Mamiko Higa and So Yeon Ryu were five-under-par after 16, 13 and 12 holes respectively, with Sung Hyun Park and Carlota Ciganda alongside Gal on four-under-par after 13 holes.
The defending champion, In-Kyung Kim and 2009 champion at Royal Lytham, In-Kyung Kim and Catriona Matthew, were on one-under and level par after 15 holes, while Charley Hull and Laura Davies were also on level par.
England’s Florentyna Parker, whose home course is Royal Birkdale, another championship links, made a hole-in-one at the ninth using an 8-iron from 140 yards and was two-under-par after 17 holes.
The championship record for the lowest round in the Ricoh Women’s British Open is 10-under 62, recorded by Minea Blomqvist at Sunningdale in 2004 and equalled by Mirim Lee at Woburn in 2016, for the lowest score after the first round.
The lowest winning total is 269, 19-under-par, recorded by England’s Karen Stupples at Sunningdale in 2004.