Germany’s Caroline Masson left the big names in the shade when she carded a flawless seven under par 65 to move into the lead after the second round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open staged over the celebrated Championship course at Carnoustie.
On a day of surprises, 22 year-old Masson, from Gladbeck near Dusseldorf, who came into the Championship in 141st place on the official Rolex World Ranking, produced seven birdies to go into the third round one shot ahead of two South Koreans, Inbee Park and first round leader, Meena Lee, on 11 under par 133.
Veteran South Korean, Si Ri Pak, matched Park’s eight under par 64 to claim a share of fourth place alongside compatriot, Na Yeon Choi, and Dewi Claire Schreefel from The Netherlands on eight under par 136 while, just behind them, World No 1 and Championship favourite, Yani Tseng, returned a six under par 66 to move up to seventh place on 137, just one shot ahead of Japan’s Mika Miyazato, Swedish rookie Caroline Hedwall, American Brittany Lincicome and another Korean, Amy Yang.
The leading British competitor heading into the weekend is 2009 Champion, Catriona Matthew, who hails from down the East coast at North Berwick and is a global ambassador for Carnoustie Country. Matthew added a 69 to her opening 70 to claim a share of 12th place with Americans, Paula Creamer and Pat Hurst, Swedes, Sophie Gustafson and Linda Wessberg and Sophie Giquel-Bettan from France on five under par 139.
Masson started the day three shots off the lead after an opening 68 but quickly moved up the leaderboard with four birdies in an outward nine of 32. She went on to add further birdies on the 13th, 15th and 17th to leave the rest of the field trailing in her wake.
The German, who spent one year at Oklahoma State University, the alma mater of Ricky Fowler and Peter Uihlein, and whose father, Stephan, is a tennis coach, arrived in Carnoustie in fine form after a second place in the Lalla Meryem Cup and three other top-10s on this season’s Ladies European Tour. However, even she could hardly believe how she had handled what is sometimes described as the toughest links in Britain.
“It’s awesome, it’s unbelievable,” she said. “Of course, I didn’t expect to lead at anytime here, but I just had two great days and I am very happy about playing so well and leading it now.
“Right now, it feels as if it’s all coming together,” she added. “I’m putting well, my short game is all right, and I’m just not finding any trouble on the golf course. Yeah, it feels really, really good right now.”
Masson will go out at 14.00 BST on Saturday alongside former US Women’s Open champion Inbee Park, while the relatively unknown Meena Lee is paired with her much more celebrated compatriot Se Ri Pak, who at 33 is now one of the elder stateswomen in the game.
Pak would be the first to admit that, during her younger days, she thought about little else other than improving her golf and it was a tactic which paid rich dividends as she won 25 times on the LPGA Tour and accumulated career earnings heading rapidly towards $12 million. However, more recently, she has tried hard to relax a bit more and in the second round at Carnoustie that resulted in a rash of birdies which leaves her perfectly poised to make a run at what would be her fifth Major title.
The Korean started strongly with birdies at the second, third, fourth and seventh to go out in 32 and then came back on the same number with four more birdies at the 10th, 13th, 14th and 15th.
“I feel really great, really comfortable, really calm,” Pak said. “Before, I focussed so much on golf that I got really down on myself when I didn’t play well. But now I have learned how lucky I am to be playing this game and that’s made it more fun again.
“I’m trying to make a better balance of my life and the game,” she added.”It’s no big deal but now, when I’m relaxing, I’m drinking beer instead of coffee, which makes it a little more relaxed (laughs).
“I work really hard all day so, off the golf course, I’m trying to be more relaxed with my friends. It’s pretty hard to do, pretty hard to learn, but now I’m getting there, getting better.”
Pak is a figurehead for many of the younger Koreans and she has been attempting to persuade them to adopt her new approach to life. “They work so hard, 24/7, each day, every single second, every moment,” she said. “I tell them that, when they are working they should be 100% focused. But then, when they are finished for the day, they should relax and enjoy themselves.
“For me, it took too long to learn, but now I tell them because I have been there before.”