UNITED KINGDOM (AFP) — Ally Ewing opened up a slim one-shot lead on a group of five players after the first round of the Women’s British Open at Walton Heath on Thursday.
American Ewing holed an eight-foot putt for eagle at the long 16th on her way to a four-under-par 68.
But it was a congested field with five players — Lee Jeong-eun, Emily Pedersen, Perrine Delacour, Jaravee Boonchant and Amy Yang — on 69 and nearly 60 players on par or better.
World No. 1 Nelly Korda was one of many to struggle on the greens, but she was poised to pounce on 73, while Charley Hull led the home English challenge on one under 71.
Ewing has won three times on the LPGA Tour, and her best finish in a major was a tie for sixth in the 2019 Chevron Championship.
One of the Tour’s consistent performers, the 30-year-old has represented the US in the last two Solheim Cups.
“It’s great to post a good first round, but a long way to go before Sunday,” said Ewing. “It was a bit windy, too, so I’m very happy to get round in four-under.”
She added: “I set myself targets and I’m usually a bit conservative. I wanted to be in the top 30, so definitely happy to be in the lead. I am looking ahead to the Solheim Cup, everyone wants to be in the team. It’s at the back of my mind so I hope I can propel myself into the US side.”
Out late, Ewing was one-under with just four holes to play, but birdied the 15th and the eagle at 17 helped her jump clear of the pack.
South Korea’s Lee won the 2019 US Women’s Open and, in the same season, was crowned LPGA Rookie of the Year.
But she suffered major heartbreak two years ago when she led by five shots going into the final round of the Evian Championship but lost in a playoff to Minjee Lee.
“I so much want a second title,” admitted the 27-year-old, who has still to win a regular LPGA tournament. “I had a lot of chances today and made four birdies on the back nine.”
For Pedersen, the aim is to post a victory and make sure of a third Solheim Cup appearance. She played in 2017 and was a member of the winning team in America two years ago.
European captain Suzann Pettersen is in the gallery this week, and Pedersen attracted attention most notably when she holed out with a mid-iron for an eagle two at the tenth.
France’s Celine Boutier, winner of the Evian Championship two weeks ago and the Scottish Open last Sunday, began her quest for back-to-back majors with an up-and-down 74. Her putting was not at its best, but she rallied with birdies at the 16th and 17th to still stay in touch.
Defending champion Ashleigh Buhai was three over par after four holes, but the South African battled on and also finished alongside Boutier on 74.