On the only previous occasion the Women's British Open was played over these links in 1998 the scoring would have disgraced the club's monthly medal. Sherri Steinhauer shared the best round of the week with a 69 on the final day, but then the American had opened with an 81. The wind and rain played havoc with the field, but five years on it was a different story yesterday.
Everyone had been expecting wind and rain again, but the sun was even tempted out for a second round graced by some superb golf. Grace Park and Lorena Ochoa scored 65s to set a women's record for the course. The exception that proved the rule was a 95 by Diana Luna, the worst round under the current 16-year-old sponsorship of the championship.
Park is rapidly closing in on the game's top-three stars, which includes her fellow South Korean Se Ri Pak as well as Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb. Pak never wanted to return to Britain after her dire experiences five years ago at Lytham, but a second successive 69 left her sharing second place, with American Wendy Ward, two strokes behind one of Ward's closest friends, Heather Bowie.
Webb, the three-time champion, and the world No 1, Sorenstam, stuttered with rounds of level par 72 to leave themselves three and four strokes adrift respectively. Pak, though, was pulled along by Ochoa and Angela Stanford, the US Open runner-up. The threesome only had one bogey, a six by Pak at the 11th.
It is far to say links golf is growing on Pak, her first impressions having been deceptive. Five years ago, Pak was enjoying a remarkable rookie season, having won two majors, the US Open and the LPGA Championship. But here, in conditions she had rarely seen before while playing golf, she had rounds of 78, 74, 79 and 77.
"This course has really bad memories for me," she said. "But I was excited to what was going to happen. The last time it was the first time I had ever played links golf. Everything, the conditions, the weather, the food, made for a hard time. My dad said you're not going to come back here any more."
When the British Open became a major on the LPGA Tour, Pak returned to win the championship at Sunningdale and then finished 11th at Turnberry last year. "I learned a lot after playing this course. It made me smarter. Before I came here I never thought I had to use 14 clubs on these courses to use every single club."
Ochoa is a 21-year-old from Mexico who won 12 times in 20 events during two years at college in the States. She has yet to win in her rookie season on the LPGA, but it must surely be coming; five times she has finished second or third. She drove the ball impressively and the last of her seven birdies came at the 18th with a seven-iron to 10 feet, a fine example of her approach play.
Park's iron shots were even crisper. She went out in 29 with six birdies, including five in a row from the fifth. The only putt she needed to hole over five feet was the 15-footer at the eighth. She had also had a 29 at the Evian Masters last week. Then she finished with a double bogey for a 66. Here she dropped only one shot at the last.
Bowie, pronounced Boo-ee, scored a 66 to top the leaderboard. Before leaving the States, the 28-year-old from Texas spent a week with her coach on Long Island playing three-quarter shots in the wind and rain. "I was wearing a turtleneck and a rain suit, just like here," she said. "Now I'm going to have to do that every year before I come over."
There may also be a genetic component to her success over here. Intense probing by reporters from north of the boarder revealed a great, great grandfather from "around Edinburgh, somewhere". Her mother's side of the family is Sicilian, but it was not a good day for Rome's Luna.
The 20-year-old, who has modelled for a golf magazine in Italy, was twice penalised two strokes for the ball rebounding off the face of a bunker and hitting her, the same error suffered by Jeff Maggert in the final round of the Masters.
Luna had a 12 at the 14th when she took four actual hacks to get out of a greenside bunker, as well as two penalty shots. When the same thing happened in a fairway bunker at the 18th she ran up a 10. "I wasn't angry as I already knew I was going to miss the cut early in the round," she said.
"It was a beautiful course and I really enjoyed playing it," Luna added. "Normally I'm really good out of the bunkers. I'm really good in sand."
At least she could still smile. So could Kirsty Taylor's sister-in-law after she was hit by the Lancashire player's drive at the last. The ball rebounded on to the fairway and Taylor went on to make the birdie she needed to make the cut.
Women'S British Open (Royal Lytham & St Annes): Early leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 136 Heather Bowie (US) 70 66. 138 Se Ri Pak (S Kor) 69 69; W Ward (US) 67 71. 139 A Fukushima (Japan) 72 67; L Ochoa (Mex) 74 65; P Meunier Lebouc (Fr) 70 69; K Webb (Aus) 67 72; G Park (S Kor) 74 65. 140 A Sorenstam (Swe) 68 72; M Redman (US) 71 69. 141 A Stanford (US) 72 69. 142 B Morgan (Wal) 72 70; S Gustafson (Swe) 73 69; K Kuehne (US) 73 69; G Simpson (Eng) 69 73. Selected: 145 Juli Inkster (US) 74 71; Laura Davies (Eng) 75 70.Reuse content