The World No. 99 carded a second successive three under par 69 to claim a three shot lead over Korea’s So Yeon Ryu and Spain’s Beatriz Recari on six under par 138.
Ryu’s compatriot Sun- Ju Ahn matched Ricari’s five under par 67 to move into a share of fourth place with Paraguay’s Julieta Granada on two under par 142 while Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, America’s Amelia Lewis, Korean Amy Yang and Gwladys Nocera from France shared sixth place on one under par 146.
Martin has made just two previous appearances at the Ricoh Women’s British Open but her lack of links experience did not stop her becoming the only competitor to break 70 in both the opening rounds. On each occasion she raced to the turn in two under par 33 and then come home in 36 with a birdie on the closing hole.
“It’s been a fun day,” said the American who has never won on the LPGA Tour but does have three victories on the Futures (Symetra) Tour to her name. “It’s always nice when your plan pans out. Earlier in the week my caddie and I worked out where the widest parts of the fairway were and where I would have the best approaches into the greens and those are what we have been aiming at.”
“It’s a fantastic lay-out,” she added. “It’s very demanding and I think the way the officials have set it up is phenomenal. It complements the lay-out perfectly. It’s a wonderful golf course but it is very challenging.
“I’ll definitely be nervous over the weekend but that that’s part of the game. I’m going to embrace that. It’s part of what we do and part of what I’m blessed to do.”
Recari can hardly have been full of confidence as she travelled to Royal Birkdale for this year’s Championship.
The 27 year-old from Pamplona, Spain, arrived on England’s Golf Coast having endured a dismal run that had seen her miss the cut in four out of her five previous appearances on the LPGA Tour in the States. She had also missed the cut on five of the six previous occasions she had played in the Ricoh Women’s British Open and for good measure arrived at Birkdale nursing a wrist injury sustained while carrying her luggage around Edinburgh airport.
“My record is not good on links courses but I think the key is that I have learned from my mistakes,” said the Spanish Solheim Cup player. “I used to try to play fancy and to shape the shots against the wind but it didn’t work for me.
“This time, I figured as long as I stayed in the fairway I’d be ok, so I just hit the slight draw I favour and tried to keep it in play.
Recari had also benefited from working with a new coach, Jorge Parada, for just over a month. “I was in such a bad place that all we did was concentrate on the basics,” she said. “We didn’t try anything fancy. We worked on getting back into a position where I could trust it and hit the shots I wanted to hit.”
“I needed that and it has given me the confidence to be able to go out there and enjoy myself.”
The Spaniard had never broken 70 in any of her previous 14 rounds at the Ricoh Women’s British Open but that did not stop her carding a five under par 67 which included six birdies and just one dropped shot. She started out with six successive pars before recording birdies on the 145-yard par-3 7th and the 397-yard par-4 9th. The 10th cost her a bogey but she stormed home with birdies at the 12th, 16th, 17th and 18th to be poised behind the leader with two rounds left to go.
“I’m just so pleased that I have been able to put this sort of round together and put myself a good position for the weekend. The first half of the season has been a challenging experience. When you mix injuries with swing problems, it definitely makes it harder than it needs to be.”
Recari goes into the weekend tied with 2011 US Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu who added a fine two under par 70 to her opening 71 and lived up to her reputation for being a model of consistency.
The 24 year-old former physical education student from Seoul dropped two shots at the treacherous 410-yard par-4 4th but got one back at the short 4th and then started her back nine with three successive threes before closing her round with a birdie on the 472-yard par-5
“I love playing links golf because it gives you so many options,” she said. “For me the most important thing is the tee shot. We can hit 5-wood and we can hit driver and we can also hit 5-iron from the same teeing ground (depending on the weather). I thought I hit a great tee shot and a great second shot at the 2nd but my ball finished at the ridge of a bunker and that’s why I made a double.”
The cut fell at six over par 150 and among those to miss out was US Women’s Open champion Michele Wie who dropped four shots over her closing four holes to post a 78 and finish on nine over par 153.
“I’m extremely disappointed how I played,” admitted the American. “But, you know, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m just going to think about what I did wrong here and see how I can improve.
“It’s just one of those weeks where I got off on the wrong foot and never felt comfortable.
“Birkdale is great,” she added. “It’s just a shame I won’t be able to play it the next two days.”
Another leading player who failed to make the weekend was 2009 champion Catriona Matthew. The veteran Scot eagled the 18th but still came home in 44 for an 83 that left her stranded on 13 over par 157.
The casualties also included Holly Clyburn (71-82), Stephanie Meadow (77-76), 2004 champion Karen Stupples (77-81) and Taiwan’s Yani Tseng who won the Ricoh Women’s British Open title the last time it was staged at Royal Birkdale back in 2010. The former World No. 1 carded rounds of 82 and 72 to post a total 18 shots higher than she recorded while claiming her second consecutive title four years ago.
The amateur prize has come down to a two horse race between England’s Georgia Hall and US Women’s Amateur champion Emma Talley after Australian duo, Su-Hyun Oh and Minjee Lee, and Denmark’s Emily Pedersen all missed the cut.
Hall, the 2013 British champion from Remedy Oak Golf Club in Hampshire, carded rounds of 72 and 73 for a one over par total of 145, exactly the same as her American rival. The English player is chasing her second successive Smyth Salver after sharing last year’s award with current world No. 2, Lydia Ko, from New Zealand.