KINGSBARNS, Scotland – Michelle Wie compared the coastal views at Kingsbarns Golf Links to her native Hawaii. An unusual comparison to be sure six miles from the Auld Grey Toon, but it did feel an awful lot like paradise on Day 1 of the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
Wie took advantage of tame, sunny conditions at Kingsbarns to post an 8-under 64 and leads a major championship for the first time since she won the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.
“I think Kingsbarns is definitely one of the most scenic golf courses I’ve ever played on,” Wie said. “You definitely get lost in the views out there.”
The leaderboard is awash in red, white and blue, though not all the names will be familiar to casual golf fans. Lindy Duncan, a former college player of the year at Duke who is playing in her first Women’s British Open, shot 66 . Morgan Pressel posted a 68, her best round since late June, as did Ally McDonald (also a first-timer at the WBO) and Jaye Marie Green. Cristie Kerr, who has shown good form of late, added a 69.
“It’s definitely one of the best golf courses I’ve ever played,” Pressel said. “It’s gorgeous, but a great test of golf.”
Pressel hasn’t cracked the top 20 since the ShopRite LPGA Classic on June 4. While the Solheim Cup looms, Pressel simply wants to ride the momentum of a fine opening round.
“It’s been a struggle this year,” she said, “and I just really would love to continue to play well this week. That’s my plan, not really too much worried about Solheim.”
Wie withdrew from the U.S. Women’s Open with neck spams and went immediately to New York City, where she had an epidural and a block injection. She didn’t pick up a club until the day before she left to play in the Aberdeen Asset Ladies Scottish Open.
“I’m pretty confident out there that my neck is going to hold up,” Wie said. “It’s just a couple of times, it’s so hard here, it’s just sometimes it feels like you’re hitting into concrete. It kind of vibrates a little bit, but it’s never to the point where there’s pain or anything, so I feel extremely lucky.”
Wie skulled a lob wedge straight over the green from the “perfect spot” on the second hole and made bogey. She got angry after that and “nuked” her next drive. A birdie on the fourth hole from 15 feet sent her sailing. She carded six birdies in her last eight holes.
At the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Wie put an 11-wood in the bag to replace her 5-iron. This week she also has a 9-wood in the bag, which she used to make birdie from 20 feet on the 12th, 4 feet on the 14th and 6 feet on the 16th.
“I was talking to Meg Mallon about it,” said Wie. “I was like, you won’t believe what’s in my bag right now. I’ve got an 11-wood. She’s like ‘Yeah, I won the U.S. Open with a 13-wood.’ ”
Wie said Callaway had to go to the archives to find her the 11-wood. She hits the 9-wood from 190 yards and the 11-wood from 180. She’s also using the 11-wood from off the green for bump-and-run shots.
Wie’s last three starts at the WBO can be summed up in five different letters: CUT-WD-CUT. In the past, Wie said, she has tried to change too much about her game to fit links golf. Competing in last week’s Scottish Open helped her to acclimate to a style of golf the creative player has grown to love.
Will she tune in for the afternoon coverage and hope that the wind kicks up?
“No, I actually don’t watch golf,” she said. “I’ll probably take a nap for sure.”