KINGSBARNS, Scotland – England’s 13-year wait could soon be over.
Karen Stupples is the last English woman to win the Women’s British Open, a feat she recorded in 2004. She remains the only English winner since the British became a major in 2001.
English golfers haven’t fared too well ever since. This year could be different. Five English players occupy the top 10 after the first round at Kingsbarns.
Mel Reid and Jodi Ewart Shadoff are tied for fourth on five under par after matching 67s, three shots behind Michelle Wie. Charley Hull, Georgia Hall and Laura Davies are a shot further back.
Reid should be closer to the lead, but squandered shots with two bogeys in her last five holes. “I definitely left a few out there for sure,” said Reid, who also missed a 12-foot birdie opportunity on the final green. “Hopefully I’m saving them for the next three days.”
The 29-year-old finished T-9 at Turnberry two years ago, her best finish in her home Open. However, she’s a different player this year after qualifying for the LPGA Tour.
“The strength and depth of the girls out there is very, very strong, which is amazing to be around because it helps you get better.”
Shadoff knows all about the strength and depth of the LPGA. She’s played most of her career in the United States, although she has yet to win. That may come this week at Kingsbarns.
She had to endure two rain weather delays before she finished her round. Yet she managed to maintain her patience to go bogey free.
Davies is the biggest surprise on the leaderboard. The 53-year-old had to go through qualifying to get into the field, and didn’t play a practice round. No wonder she didn’t give herself much of a chance in her pre-tournament press conference.
“I’m not saying I can win,” Davies said. “Obviously that’s a ridiculous statement.”
Especially since she hasn’t recorded a top-10 anywhere in the world since finishing fourth in Japan three years ago. Yet the Hall of Famer went out in five-under-par 31. She got to six under, two shots off the lead, with a birdie at the 15th. Then she lapsed into ridiculous mode to back up a pre-tournament claim: “Even if I got into contention, I don’t know if I’d be able to handle it.”
She double bogeyed the par-5 15th hole and dropped another shot at the 16th. Still, a 68 has her looking to improve on a ninth-place finish at Royal Birkdale three years ago.
“I’m under no illusions of winning, but I would love to have a good week and just try to scare the leaders a bit.”
The same can’t be said for Hull. She thinks she can win every time she tees it up.
Hull could also be closer to Wie’s lead if not for three-putting the 16th and 17th greens, which she blamed on heavy rain slowing down the putting surfaces. Yet she still enjoyed her round.
“I like the challenge and the struggle,” she said. “I like the battle. I think it’s more fun.
“I’m confident going into tomorrow.”
Hall’s having a hard time focussing this week because she’s got the Solheim Cup on her mind.
The 21-year-old leads the LET Solheim Cup Points race for the match to be played at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. She’s set to make her debut.
“It’s hard for me because the Solheim Cup is massive,” Hall said. “It’s a dream for me, and it’s only two weeks away. I kind of have to put that out of my head at the moment and focus on the British Open. I’ve had a good first round, so hopefully I can continue that.”
English golf fans will be hoping that applies to the rest of her compatriots.