Yani Tseng made the most of the tranquil morning weather when she carded a second successive four under par 68 to move into a four shot lead on eight under par 136 at the end of a weather affected second round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at The Royal Birkdale Golf Club.
The 21 year-old Taiwanese golfer started the day tied at the top of the leaderboard but, as the weather deteriorated and the late starters were battered by torrential rain, she found herself with a four shot advantage over Americans, Cristie Kerr and Brittany Lincicome, and Korean, Amy Yang.
Norway’s Suzann Petersen also made the most of the more clement morning conditions, posting another four under par 68 to move up to a share of fifth place alongside Korea’s Sun Young Yoo and America’s Brittany Lincicome while, later in the day, 50 year-old Juli Inkster used all her vast experience to defy the worst of the weather and card a two under par 70 to join them on three under par 141.
The charismatic American, Christina Kim, also made progress, rekindling memories of her fine tie for third place at last year’s Championship by returning a 68 to finish the round tied in eighth place alongside French woman Anne-Lise Caudal, Japan’s Momoko, joint first round leader Katherine Hull, and Koreans In-Kyung Kim, Hee Kyung Seo, M.J. Hur and Jiyai Shin on two under par 142.
However, 20 year-old Michelle Wie, who had opened brightly with a two under par 70, failed to take advantage of an early 7.03 am starting time when she hit her first tee shot out-of-bounds on the way to returning a disappointing four over par 76 that saw her drop from a tie for seventh into a share of 31st place ten shots behind Tseng.
The precocious Tseng has already won both the LPGA and the Kraft Nabisco Championship and she is on course to make it a hat-trick of Major titles after a 68 that included five birdies and just one dropped shot on the 373-yard par-4 3rd where she drove into the bunker on the left-hand side of the fairway and failed to reach a green in regulation for the first time in 21 holes.
“I played another solid round and made a lot of putts,” she said. “I was also very lucky. Right now it’s raining but, out there this morning, there was no rain and very little wind.”
“I have never led a Major from the start before but I feel confident and believe I can continue to play well.”
America’s Cristie Kerr has built up a wealth of experience winning 14 titles in 13 years on the LPGA Tour and she was also aware how fortunate she had been to be handed a late start on the first day and an early one the following morning.
“There was no wind when we started so I said to myself that I gotta’ take advantage of the conditions,” said the woman who produced the form of her life while securing a remarkable 12-shot victory at the LPGA Championship earlier this season.
“The last time I was here at Birkdale (at the 2005 Ricoh Women’s British Open) I got the wrong end of the split. I had the worst of the weather in both the first and the second rounds but this time it has been different so I knew I had a chance to do well.”
Kerr made a bright start with birdies at the opening two holes. She dropped a shot at the 8th but then made further advances at the 10th, 14th, 15th and 18th to complete a best-of-the-day 67 before admitting she had taken a while to adjust to her temporary elevation to World’s No. 1 in the aftermath of her extraordinary LPGA triumph.
“I had a lot of other stuff to do other than to play golf and get my nails done and I think I struggled,” she said. “It was a time management thing. I had a lot of stuff to do – media stuff and that sort of thing – and I didn’t get time to practise. I got no time to rest before the (US) Women’s Open and I kinda’ ran out of gas over the weekend.
“It made me realise how hard it must have been for Annika (Sorenstam) and Lorena (Ochoa) who were both No. 1 for years. Now I feel like I understand and I know what I will have to do to prioritise when I get to No. 1 again.”
The best round of the day might well have come from the veteran, Inkster, who carded a remarkable two under par 70 in the worst of the weather and it could have been even better but for missing from five feet for a birdie on the last.
The 50 year-old mother of four went out in level par 35 after a bogey on the 3rd and a birdie on the 175-yard par-3 4th and them moved into red figures for the day with further birdies at the 499-yard par-5 15th and the 516-yard par-5 17th.
“It’s summer,” she laughed. “You always play good in summer.
“Seriously, it was tough out there,” she added. “Luckily, the wind wasn’t blowing as bad as yesterday, but it was raining and tedious. I was very happy with the way I played.”
Inkster, who has won seven majors and a total of 31 LPGA victories in a career spanning 27 years, went on to pay tribute to the leader, Tseng. “She’s a great player,” she said. “She just hits the ball phenomenal. When she putts good, she wins. She’s going to be tough. You’ve also got Suzann Pettersen up there, a lot of great players. But I’m really happy. They played this morning, and I played in the afternoon, so I’m happy with where I’m at.”
Catriona Matthew’s defence of the Ricoh Women’s British Open title ended in ignominious fashion when she ran up a ruinous 10 on the 430-yard par-4 13th where she drove into the rough, hacked out and then got stuck in the rough after blocking her third. She birdied the following hole but then carded a double bogey six on the 16th before posting a nine over par 81 to finish the championship on 12 over par 156. When asked what she had said to her husband and caddie, Graeme, on leaving the 13th green she responded: “Not a lot. I’d scored 10. It had just started raining again. There wasn’t a lot to say.”
Meanwhile, there was better fortune for Europe’s current No. 1 woman amateur, Caroline Hedwall, who registered a 75 to make the cut right on the mark at five over par 149. The other four amateurs in the field, British Ladies’ champion Kelly Tidy, 15 year-old Julie Yang, Curtis Cup international Danielle McVeigh and Welsh star Amy Boulden, all missed the cut so the Swede, Hedwall, now only has to complete the last two rounds to win the Smyth Salver, awarded to the leading amateur who plays all four rounds. Previous winners included Michelle Wie (2005), Amy Yang (2006), Melissa Reid (2007) and Anna Nordqvist (2008). No amateur made the cut last year at Royal Lytham & St Annes.