Japanese Joy as Uehara Leads the Way

Ricoh Women's British Open - Day One

Japan’s Ayako Uehara holds a slender one shot lead after the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale.

The 30 year-old former Japanese amateur champion carded a superb four under par 68 to go into the second round one shot ahead of America’s Mo Martin and two in front of Mina Harigae, Sarah Kemp and Morgan Pressel, the four-time Solheim Cup player who shared the lead after the opening round at last yea r’s Championship at St Andrews on her way to finishing tied for place shots behind Stacy Lewis.

The 2014 champion opened her defence with a fine one under par 71 which left her in a tie for sixth place alongside England’s Holly Clyburn and Korean duo So Yeon Ryu and Amy Yangwhile World No. 2 Lydia Ko was one of 14 players who matched the par of 72.

That group also included 2008 and 2012 champion Jiyai Shin, 2002 champion Karrie Webb plus Lexi Thompson, Anna Nordqvist, Julieta Granada, Marina Alex, Amelia Lewis, Azahara Munoz, Jessica Korda, Suzanne Pettersen, Ai Miyazato, Amy Yang Emma Talley and Inbee Park who this week is endeavouring to complete a Grand Slam of the women’s Major titles.

US Amateur champion, Talley, holds a narrow one shot lead as she bids to succeed Ko and Georgia Hall in the race to win the low amateur prize. Hall is the player breathing down her neck after finishing with an eagle and a birdie to post a one over par 73.

Uehara started her opening round with a bogey five on the treacherous 430-yard par-4 1st hole but soon got into her stride with three birdies in four holes from the 5th. That helped her reach the turn in two under par 33 and she also came home in two under the card with further birdies at the 149-yard par-3 12th and the 472-yard par-5 closing hole.

“I putted good today,” said the three-time Japanese LPGA Tour winner. “I had a lot of good birdie chances. I didn’t make them all but I holed quite few and that gave me confidence.

“I don’t mind the wind,” she added. “I come from Okinawa where it’s windy all the time so I’m used to it.”

Martin dropped a shot at the 410-yard par-4 2nd but got it back at the 478-yard par-5 6th and she was still level par after 13 holes before finishing with a flourish with birdies at the 14th, 16th and 18th holes.

“I had a really good plan and I executed it well today,” said the 31 year-old Californian whose favourite song is David Bowie’s Heroes because “it reminds me of the possibilities.”

“This course requires a lot of strategy. I think the lay-out is phenomenal and the way the officials set it up just complements that.

“It’s a fun challenge. It’s new,” she added. We don’t get to play courses like this very often. The British Open is only once a year.”

Defending champion, Lewis, was another player who started slowly before battling back to finish just three shots off the pace. She was two over par after dropping shots at both the 1st and the 373-yard par-4 3rd and was still one over at the turn but then birdied the 12th and the 499-yard par-5 15th to end the round in red figures.

“I think anything under par on this golf course is a good score,” confirmed the current World No. 1. “The opening holes are hard. I needed to stay patient and hang in there and that’s what I was able to do.”

“I’m definitely not disappointed,” she added. “This course is so hard. I’m just happy to shoot something under par. In the red numbers is a good place to be.”

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