20 Aug 2021 | Professional golf |

Lee and Oh lead the Australian charge at Carnoustie

by Dane Heverin

Minjee Lee tees off during the opening round.

Minjee Lee and Su Oh were the best of the Australians with one-under par rounds of 71 to be T22 on the opening day of the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie.

Calm and overcast conditions were suitable for good scoring and the Australian pair took advantage early before both experienced mid-round stumbles which made their scorecards colourful.

“I would probably sum it up as eventful,” Lee said of her opening round.

The most recent women’s major champion looked to have picked up where she left off at the Evian Championship with birdies at the first and second holes.

Another birdie followed at the sixth to reach three-under par but links golf courses know how to quickly bite back and Carnoustie is no exception.

She went on a nightmare double bogey-bogey-double bogey stretch at the eighth, ninth and tenth to undo her early great work.

“I sort of had a bit of a bloop,” she said.

Champions always respond and Lee did just that as she immediately hit back with a birdie at the short par-4 11th before a brilliant second shot at the 12th - the shortest par-5 on the course - set up a stunning eagle.

“I think I had 196 meters into the pin, and it was slightly into the wind today,” she said.

“So I hit my 5-wood, and I think it landed in a very soft spot. So it was only like a four-foot putt for eagle. So it was nice.”

Her rollercoaster round steadied from there until a near hole-in-one (watch here) at the 16th provided one of the highlights of the day.

“Yes, I actually made birdie on 16. I was so proud of myself,” she said.

“I bogeyed 17, but still. They're just really tough holes to finish, but they're really fair but challenging. So I just really enjoy playing a challenging golf course.

“I think I'm going in the right direction. I was 5-over on those three holes. If I minimize a little on that score, I think I'll be alright.”

Oh’s round followed a similar pattern: a strong start, a slip up and a stunning response.

The Victorian birdied three and four but a run of three bogeys in four holes either side of the turn hurt.

She responded with a birdie at the 12th and then a hole-out eagle at the par-4 15th.

“It's so narrow, and I wasn't hitting the ball very well, which I think 1-under is the best score I could shoot today. I got lucky on 15 and holed out,” Oh said.

It may have been luck, but it was one of the moments of the day.

“So I haven’t been hitting my driver well at all the whole day, and I flush one, like kind of a draw around like perfect with the shape of the hole, and it was like 145 and 155 to the pin, but the wind was like -- we couldn’t tell whether it was into or down, and it was off the right. So it was a bit tricky, and we decided to go -- because it was cold, so we decided to go with the longer club. So I hit like a smooth 7,” Oh said.

“I didn’t actually hit it that great. It was okay. As soon as I hit it, like the strike wasn’t perfect, and I was like, oh, that should be alright. Once it lands, it feeds to the hole. I just saw it bounce a couple times, and I was like, oh, that might be alright. Then the crowd between 1 and 15 were like, whew, it’s in the hole, and I was really happy.

“So it’s actually really nice having the crowds back because we wouldn’t have known.”

At the top of the leaderboard, world number one Nelly Korda continued her remarkable run of form to share the lead alongside Sei Young Kim and Madelene Sagstrom at five-under par.

Meanwhile, Steph Kyriacou and Katherine Kirk were the next best placed Australians at even par.

Kyriacou played consistent golf to card two birdies, two bogeys and fourteen pars.

"I played pretty steady. I had quite a few putts roll over the edge. I think, if I get my putter going, I could go low tomorrow," Kyriacou said.

Kirk’s round was anything but a smooth ride.

The 3-time LPGA Tour winner caught fire with four straight birdies at eight, nine, ten and eleven but her day was bookended by numerous bogeys.

Hannah Green struggled to gain any momentum during her one-over par round of 73.

The West Australian made a promising start with a birdie at the first hole but a bogey followed by a double bogey at five and six had her scrambling for the remainder of the day.

She is joined at T64 by compatriot Whitney Hillier who played some great golf to be two-under through 14 holes before she came unstuck with a bogey-bogey-double bogey run at the 15th, 16th and 17th.

It was a difficult day for Sarah Kemp as she shot a six-over par 78, while amateur Kirsten Rudgeley had a tough major championship debut with a round of 86.


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