Strong winds wreak havoc on Day 1 at Royal Troon, Amy Olson leads and Sophia Popov lurks
Amy Olson grew up playing the ball low in Oxbow, North Dakota, where windswept days were the norm. A four-club wind at Royal Troon on (...)
Amy Olson grew up playing the ball low in Oxbow, North Dakota, where windswept days were the norm. A four-club wind at Royal Troon on Thursday suited the 28-year-old American just fine on what she called the best ball-striking day of her career.
Olson opened up a three-stroke lead at the AIG Women’s British Open with a 4-under 67. Only three players broke par on the day, and 50-year-old Catriona Matthew, the last Scot to win the title, joined a large contingent at even par.
“It was so tough,” said Olson. “I can’t even describe how difficult it was.”
Dame Laura Davies hit the opening tee shot at Royal Troon, marking her 40th appearance in the championship and the first time a women’s major has been contested on the classic course.
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“This course has so much history,” said Olson, “and for the longest time women couldn’t play here … honestly a lot of us are riding kind of the coattails of what a lot of women did before us.”
Alena Sharp thought a 6:30 a.m., tee time alongside Davies might offer relief from the wind. But as the impact of Storm Ellen rolled through, fences fell down as she warmed up on the range.
Sharp cranked her first tee shot out of bounds and double-bogeyed the opening hole. She said the misfire woke her up, and the Canadian veteran went on to grind out a 71.
Olson swapped out 13 of her 14 clubs over the LPGA’s 166-day break, putting in a full set of Ping clubs with the exception of a Callaway putter. The extended time off gave the perfectionist a chance to fine-tune her bag. She’d need every part of her game in tip-top shape to pull away from the field, and a little luck too.
Olson, who graduated with a degree in accounting and went on to become a CPA, has yet to win on the LPGA but has contended in several majors, finishing tied for second to Angela Stanford at the Evian Championship two years ago. She loves everything about major championship golf – links in particular.
“I love being able to play with feel,” she said, “and not necessarily rely on pure math.”
Nelly Korda’s opening drive went 187 yards. She then watched her 5-iron balloon into the air 140 yards, landing short of the green. The wind was so strong on the opening stretch, said Korda, that she found it difficult to walk.
Matthew knows better than anyone the importance of patience on such grueling Scottish days. The European Solheim Cup captain and 2009 British Open champion, didn’t miss a fairway in her opening 71, birdieing three of her last four holes.
The way she’d been playing lately, Matthew admitted that making the cut would’ve been a good showing. A change to the “saw” putting grip, however, seems to have changed things.
“No reason why I can’t go on from here,” she said.
Sophia Popov’s journey to Troon was certainly more eventful than most. During the LPGA’s five-month tournament drought, Popov won three times on the Cactus Tour, an Arizona-based mini tour where her biggest check was $9,710.
Three weeks ago, the German caddied for good friend Anne van Dam in the LPGA’s first event back at Inverness. Two weeks ago, she qualified for the year’s first major by finishing tied for ninth at the Marathon LPGA Classic, using a pull cart. Last week she flew to Phoenix, where she played in a Symetra Tour event in temperatures that soared well over 100 degrees, finishing second.
Popov arrived in Scotland on Tuesday and played one practice round before posting the day’s first round under par, 1-under 70.
“No one can really prepare me for what’s going to come tomorrow,” she said of a forecast that looks even worse. “It might go totally sideways.”