Koch and Kung Share Lead
Friday was a far cry from the fair weather that competitors had experienced during the last few days. With storm clouds looming overhead, players teed off in the morning as Turnberry served up wet and windy conditions with temperatures barely reaching the mid-50s.
But Kung was prepared.
With her brother Justin, a graduate of MIT, on the bag and wearing a rain suit and two, count em, two hats, she had an amazing start to her day recording par, birdie, eagle on the opening holes. This quickly gave the former University of Southern California golfer a jump on the day, and the rest of the field.
The front side of the famed Ailsa course played harder Friday than the closing nine, and Kung, as well as others in the field, definitely felt it.
'Everything started off pretty good, birdied the second, eagled the third, everything was in control and then the wind started picking up on, I don't know, probably like our 6th hole or something,' Kung said. 'And all of a sudden it got really cold and I just lost control of my drives.'
She recorded her first bogey in 25 holes on the par-5 seventh and another at the turn on the par-4 ninth. Kung completed her round by rather carelessly dropping a stroke on the last to join Koch at 8-under.
One week ago, Koch missed the cut at the Norwegian Masters. Friday, she matched her first-round score of 68 to move into a share of the lead going into the weekend.
'When I looked out the window this morning I thought it was going to be worse,' Koch said of the weather. 'I walked up to breakfast, I thought it was absolutely freezing and that it may be might get worse and worse this afternoon. But it wasn't too bad today, the cold or the wind.'
Sporting blond braids and a ski beanie, the Swedish beauty managed the opening holes in just 35 strokes. On the back nine it was back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th that gave her game a much needed boost and has now left her on top of the leaderboard. 'I putted really good for two days now. Not making everything, but just everything is close and everything is a good speed.'
Koch and Kung hold a one-shot advantage over Beth Bauer, Paula Marti, Tina Barrett and Karrie Webb, who are all tied at 7-under 137.
'I really enjoy coming over here,' Barrett, who has made nine consecutive British Open cuts, said. 'I wouldn't miss it. I don't know how anyone could miss coming and playing here with all the history, and new experiences, and the food and the pints and everything, it is just -- it's different than what we have in the States, but to me, it is like one of the great things of being on the Tour is that we get to see places like this.'
The Ailsa Craig and Turnberry lighthouse looked on as Karrie Webb recorded a trio of bogeys at the turn Friday morning. Its the most exposed area of the course, and with winds gusting, the dreaded ninth and 10th were two of the toughest holes on the course.
'It was extremely cold this morning and extremely windy, especially when we got out right on those ocean holes there,' Webb said. 'And the holes 4 through 11 were probably the toughest stretch of holes I have ever played, I think, as far as what the weather did to make those holes extremely tough.'
Webb recovered with her second eagle of the day on the par-5 17th to return to 1-under for the day and finish in the best position that she has been in all season.
Among a plethora of young talent that has risen to the top of the leaderboard is LPGA Tour rookie sensation Beth Bauer.
Bauer was all smiles following Fridays round. It was tough today, Bauer said. This morning, the wind was blowing two to three clubs. The wind can come up at any minute.
Bauer, a former member of the Futures Tour, gained her links golf experience while playing as a member of the U.S. Curtis Cup team in 2000. Friday, in typical Scottish conditions, she navigated her way through the blustery course, recording six birdies throughout her round and one of the lowest scores of the day. One bogey, on the par-4 16th, marred an otherwise error-free round.
Defending champion Se Ri Pak is at 5-under after shooting even par.
Annika Sorenstam will make Scottish headlines for the wrong reason after recording her worst round since 1999. At 5-over for the day and a projected cut of 2-over, Sorenstam has insured that she will not be around for the weekend.
Shes not the only veteran who will be watching from the sidelines this weekend. Laura Davies recorded 74-75 (149) to finish 5-over, while the reigning U.S. Open champion Juli Inkster recorded 75-78 (153) to earn a short vacation.
Full-field scores from the Weetabix Women's British Open
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."