SOUTHPORT, England – Safe to say few people would’ve seen this coming from Beatriz Recari. The last, and likely only time, the media have gathered around the Spaniard this season came three weeks ago at Pinehurst when she played a practice round alongside 11-year-old Lucy Li. Everyone wanted to know what she thought of the kid.
On a calm, sunny day in Southport, Recari found the spotlight herself with a smooth 5-under 67, the lowest round so far this week at Royal Birkdale.
Recari birdied the last three holes to get to 3 under for the tournament, tied with 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu.
“It’s been a challenging learning experience for me this first half of the season,” said Recari. “You mix injuries with compensations in your swing and working on the wrong things to get back; it definitely makes it harder that it needs to be.”
For the last two seasons, Recari had made 49 of 52 cuts. In 2012, she was a perfect 27 for 27, earning her the nickname “Ironwoman.” Recari won twice in 2013 and crossed the $1 million mark for the first time in her career. But then she left longtime swing coach Tom Creavy in search of something else. She’s been searching and struggling for most of 2014, even calling on Lake Nona neighbor Annika Sorenstam for help.
In 2014, Recari has teed it up in a dozen LPGA events and missed the cut seven times. She also withdrew from HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore. Her best finish this season: T-28 at the Australian Open.
Five weeks ago the 27-year-old began working with Jorge Parada, the man who brought Anna Nordqvist back to life.
“I was in such an undesirable situation or place, however you want to call it,” said Recari, “that pretty much we just worked on getting the swing back, getting the positions back to neutral and back to a position where I could just trust it and hit the shots that I wanted to hit, which are high draws.”
Recari said her injuries started with her right hip and extended into her lower and mid back. Earlier this week Recari tweaked her wrist trying to lug four pieces of luggage through the Edinburgh airport after a canceled flight.
“Englishmen are very – not gentlemen,” she said laughing.
The moderator pointed out that she was actually in Scotland and inquired if she’d asked for help.
“No,” she said. “Two women tried to help me, and I said I’m not going to do that to you because they are really heavy. … It was just a joke that it happened.”
The trainers on site at Royal Birkdale had her pain-free by Wednesday.
Recari admits her record on links courses isn’t all that great. She has played in four Women’s British Opens and missed the cut in three.
“I think the key is that I have learned from my mistakes,” she said. “I try to always play fancy and shape the ball against the wind, and that never worked for me.”
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PARK’S PUTTER SWITCH: Inbee Park switched putters this week to the Ping Craz-E, retiring the Odyssey Sabertooth that won her three majors last year. Park’s caddie, Brad Beecher, said the insert in the face had deteriorated from overuse and they changed it out for a fresher model but that didn’t work.
Park had two putters sent from Ping to Royal Birkdale. She birdied the last holes Friday to shoot 72 and stay at level par for the tournament. Park said she changed putters to refresh her mind more than anything else.
“This is the tournament I really want to win,” she said.
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TALLEY EARNS HIGH PRAISE: Amateur Emma Talley is 1 over for the tournament after a solid 73. The 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur champ played alongside Stacy Lewis for the first two rounds at Pinehurst and said the World No. 1 pulled her aside after Friday’s play. Lewis praised Talley for her work on the greens from inside 6 feet and talked to her about ways to improve course management.
Talley said she learned the importance of playing it safe at majors after watching Lewis make her way around No. 2.
“When I got home I wanted to practice even harder,” she said.
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SHORT SHOTS: Lexi Thompson opened with a 10 on the first hole Friday, hitting two balls out of bounds off the tee. The par-4 first played the most difficult in Round 1 with an average of 4.81. … Catriona Matthew went double bogey/bogey/quad in a three-hole stretch on the back nine. The Scot had a tap-in for eagle up the last, but it surely did nothing to ease the blow of an 83.