'Minnie' makes a major impact after record round - Golf - Sport - The Independent

'Minnie' makes a major impact after record round

It was as if a memo had been sent round informing everyone that after failing to take advantage of perfect conditions on Friday, a second opportunity yesterday should not be passed up at the Weetabix Women's British Open.

It was as if a memo had been sent round informing everyone that after failing to take advantage of perfect conditions on Friday, a second opportunity yesterday should not be passed up at the Weetabix Women's British Open.

Little did the stately Old Course here know what it was in for. Something special was happening when a 19-year-old Finn was jumping up and down on the final green around lunchtime having recorded the first-ever 62 in a women's major championship. Minea Blomqvist went from 11 behind the lead to one adrift before Karen Stupples, the overnight leader, had even teed off. With others following the birdie trail, the Kent woman was almost trampled in the cavalry charge.

But despite a double bogey at the fourth, her first hole over par all week, Stupples hung on for a 70 to lie just one off the lead. At 12 under par, Rachel Teske and Heather Bowie, both after 65s, topped the leaderboard. Cristie Kerr, after a 63, was tied with Stupples in third place.

Annika Sorenstam will have to bring out her low round today. A double-bogey seven at the first and another at the 14th cost the Swede dearly, though she still managed a 70. She starts five behind today, with Laura Davies, ever striving to win the title for the second time, a shot closer with Blomqvist at eight under. She might have been better placed but for two late bogeys.

Stupples, whose maiden title came earlier this season, met the Duke of York for the first time on the first tee while waiting to tee off, and admitted to starting out with a few nerves. "I was anticipating people would be scoring well but I didn't have the feel on the short shots I needed," she said.

"I whiffed a two-footer at the fourth and that was naughty. But I felt I finished strongly to keep me in touch and that gives me confidence for tomorrow. The leaders are going to be nervous, they wouldn't be human if they weren't, so I need to get off to a good start."

Bowie, from Texas, has yet to win a tournament but was the second-round leader at Lytham last year, so this is improvement of sorts. Australian Teske is a proven winner who has beaten Soren- stam three times in play-offs but, like Kerr, the 26-year-old from Miami, who has won twice this year, has yet to win a major.

Blomqvist's 10-under 62 was a new women's record for the Old Course, a new championship record and the lowest round ever played in a women's major. But the numbers were not new to the rookie teenager. It was her third of the year. The first came in South Africa and the second, a fortnight ago, equalled the lowest-ever round in Europe. She went on to win the Central European Open in Hungary for her maiden title.

Only 11 months ago, Blomqvist, known as "Minnie", was playing in the Junior Solheim Cup. The talent is undeniable but it is as yet unrefined. She opened with a 68, which included a triple bogey, but then shot a 78 on Friday. She took 40 putts and said her concentration was to blame. Making a 20-foot putt for an eagle at the first obviously got her attention.

As well as Blomqvist played, it was on the greens that the magic worked to the full. Five of her six birdies came with putts of between 15 and 20 feet. Her second eagle of the day came at the 10th courtesy of a chip-in from 60 feet.

But even when she barely crept on to the front of the green at the last, leaving herself over 40 feet from the hole, her putt hit the flagstick and dropped in. Of course it did. Her only stumble was in tripping up on the step into the recorder's hut, but even then she regained her balance.

Blomqvist shares the same coach as Sorenstam, Pia Nilsson. Sorenstam once shot a 59 but Blomqvist wrote a "58" on the front of her yardage book at the start of the year "to help me remember that I'm going to be a little bit better than Annika."

The pair will meet on the course for the first time tomorrow at an exhibition match in Finland. "A few weeks ago I was having nightmares about that," Blomqvist admitted. "But now I am thinking I will be more comfortable playing against her."

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