Park three shots back at Women’s British
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Inbee Park wasn’t just chasing history at St. Andrews. She was sprinting toward it.
All it took were three loose tee shots, a pair of three-putts and one double bogey on the back nine Thursday in the Women’s British Open to remind her that winning an unprecedented four straight majors in one year is not going to be easy.
Park ran off six birdies in 10 holes to race to the top of the leaderboard, only to stumble coming back in for a 3-under 69 that left her two shots out of the lead.
“Felt like a roller coaster today,” Park said.
Stacy Lewis, the former No. 1 who would love to be a spoiler at St. Andrews, hit her stride on the back nine with a 31 that gave her a 67 and a share of the lead midway through the opening round with Na Yeon Choi, Nicole Castrale and Mi-Jeong Jeon.
Paula Creamer played bogey-free for a 68.
“Once the round started, and especially playing so good the first few holes, that really gave me a lot of confidence,” Park said. “I didn’t feel much pressure during the round. I’m just glad that it is already started and I got the first round under my belt.”
The conditions were perfect for scoring on the Old Course, with light rain falling from a lead gray sky and barely any wind. Some of the biggest names in women’s golf, including Park, Lewis and Creamer, teed off in front of the Royal & Ancient clubhouse with no more than a few dozen fans in tow.
Park already has won three majors this year. No golfer, male or female, has ever won four in one year. The 25-year-old South Korean said she was more nervous than usual before getting to the first tee, perhaps because of all the chatter about a Grand Slam.
It sure didn’t show.
Park opened with a wedge into about 7 feet for birdie, and then she really poured it on with an amazing display of her putting stroke. She rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 3 with perfect pace. She hit a hybrid the perfect distance on No. 4, giving her a flat line between ridges for an 18-foot birdie putt. She made a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 6, another birdie just inside 20 feet on No. 8 and a sixth birdie on No. 10 after a wedge that stopped 5 feet from the hole.
Just like that, there was a feeling of inevitability about this Women’s British Open, much like it was for Tiger Woods when he won the British Open for the first time at St. Andrews by eight shots to complete the career Grand Slam in 2000.
Dressed in a black rain suit, her emotions never changed, even when she started to unravel.
It started with a tee shot into thick grass to the right of the 12th fairway and a shot he hacked out to the front of the green, below a 3-foot ridge some 75 feet away. Park left the putt some 15 feet short, and made that to save par.
But she couldn’t save herself from another poor drive on the 13th, and her second shot came dangerously close to a large gorse bush. She chipped to 15 feet and made bogey, her first of the day. A delicate pitch-and-run helped her avoid another bogey on the 15th after a tee shot to the right.
Her biggest mistake came from the only bunker she found, just short of the 16th green.
The ball was a few feet from the lip, and Park was tempted to take it up over the high face of the vetted wall. Instead, she turned sideways and blasted out to the middle of the double green, the ball about halfway between the holes cut for No. 2 and No. 16. From some 90 feet away, she didn’t hit it nearly hard enough, and her par putt from 15 feet caught the lip.
She also three-putted the 17th from 40 feet when her first attempt came up 10 feet short. Considered one of the best putter on the LPGA Tour — and looking for a short time as though she couldn’t miss — Park had consecutive three-putt bogeys and had lost four shots in a five-hole span.
Simpson up by two at Bridgestone
AKRON, Ohio — Webb Simpson shot a 6-under 64 in his first competitive round at Firestone Country Club to take a one-stroke lead in the Bridgestone Invitational.
The 2012 U.S. Open champion had six birdies in an eight-hole span to get the upper hand on seven-time Bridgestone winner Tiger Woods. Woods, with top-10 finishes in 11 of his 13 starts on the course, shot a 66 in the World Golf Championships event.
Henrik Stenson was alone in second with a 65. Defending champion Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore and Chris Wood, another first-time entrant, matched Woods at 66.
Phil Mickelson had a 72 in his return from winning the British Open.
Teater on top at Reno-Tahoe Open
RENO, Nev. — Josh Teater took the first-round lead in the Reno-Tahoe Open, scoring five points with an eagle on the par-5 eighth hole and finishing with 15 in the modified Stableford event.
Winless on the PGA Tour, Teater also had six birdies and two bogeys at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
Players receive eight points for double eagle, five for eagle, two for birdie, zero for par, minus-one for bogey and minus-three for double bogey or worse.
Gary Woodland and James Driscoll were a point back, and Greg Chalmers followed at 13.