Sticky patch halts Inbee Park's progress at British Open

 

St Andrews

A roller coaster is how Inbee Park described her day, a rapid climb to the top of the leader board followed by a steep descent and then a birdie to finish. There was a bit of everything as the Korean's quest for the Grand Slam began at the Ricoh Women's British Open here, not least a hint of frailty to balance the otherworldly stuff that saw her rampage into an early lead.

With her idiosyncratic swing, Park would not be a paradigm for your daughter off the tee, but you would gladly let her putt for your supper. She drained birdies from 40, 30 and twice from 20 feet on her outward nine to stand six under par after 10 holes. Was she trying to get this done in a day?

That is how it appeared before Park was spooked by a poor drive on 13, which unhinged her sufficiently to yield a three-putt and trigger an erratic run home.

More uncharacteristic three-putts at 16 and 17, albeit from some distance on expansive greens, were softened by a birdie at the last. It was, therefore, with a sense of relief that she signed for a three-under-par 69, happy to get the first day over and shed a little of the apprehension triggered by the historic quest for a fourth successive major.

"I was a little nervous this morning before I teed off," Park admitted. "But once the round started, especially playing so well in the first few holes, I gained a lot of confidence. I didn't feel much pressure but I'm glad I have got the first round under my belt. I knew what I was playing for. That made me a little more nervous but then I birdied the first so maybe I can play under pressure."

Park was in the fourth group out at three minutes after seven and wrapped from head to toe in Gore-Tex to protect against the miserable damp. At least the wind took a day off. The course was no match for her at that unspeakable hour, giving up three birdies in the opening four holes. Talk about an early alarm call for the rest of the field.

Funny how this game can locate the solar plexus when least expected. As they say in boxing, the punch that brings you down is the one you never saw coming. That blow was the tee shot pushed right at 13. It all got pretty ugly after that. "I was worried about the drive I hit and was thinking so much about my swing that I just lost concentration. I really just wanted to fix the swing. I couldn't concentrate on the greens," she admitted.

Nicole Castrale, one of four players to post the early clubhouse lead on five under par before Morgan Pressel and Camilla Lennarth went one better later on, cautioned against seeing too much into Park's late travails. "You know, she's human," Castrale said. "I don't know if you have been on the golf course but you don't need to have a meltdown to make a double-bogey [here]. You could hit a good tee shot and see it ricochet into a bunker and then you have no shot. I bet she's not thinking she had a meltdown. Three under any time at a major in the first round is a good start."

Stacey Lewis, the world No 2 to Park, also shot a 67 and was relieved to be two shots clear of her biggest rival. "It was funny, Karrie [Webb] and I were on the 10th green and saw a leader board for the first time," Lewis said. "I think Inbee was five under through eight and we just kind of looked at each other and shook our heads."

Woods in frame at Bridgestone International

Tiger Woods declared himself happy with his opening round at the Bridgestone International after he carded a four-under-par 66.

Webb Simpson shot a six-under-par 64 at Firestone Country Club to lead by one shot from Henrik Stenson, with Woods, Ryan Moore and England's Chris Wood a further stroke behind.

Woods said: "I missed a few putts but overall a pretty good day." Rory McIlroy recovered from a slow start but bogeyed the last to post a level-par round of 70.

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