Minjee Lee leads after Round 1 of Women's British Open

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Minjee Lee leads after Round 1 of Women's British Open

LPGA Tour

Minjee Lee leads after Round 1 of Women's British Open

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England ­– The player ranked No. 1 in sand saves on the LPGA currently leads at Royal Lytham, the most bunkered course on the Royal & Ancient’s British Open rota. Minjee Lee’s opening 7-under 65 at the Ricoh Women’s British Open gives her a slight advantage over an impressive list of pursuers.

One of the best players on the LPGA without a major title, Lee finished runner-up last week to Ariya Jutnaugarn at the Ladies Scottish Open and lost a heartbreaker of a playoff to Lydia Ko in San Francisco. The Aussie did triumph at the LPGA Volvik Championship in May, earning her fourth LPGA title. Her talent is such that many observers would call that victory total underachieving, even at age 22.

Lee’s best finish in four British Open appearances is a tie for ninth in 2015 at Turnberry. Her best major showing is a share of third at the 2017 ANA Inspiration.

“I mean I don’t think I would like to play it every single week,” she said, “but yeah, I definitely love the links.”

Major winners Sung Hyun Park (-5), Lydia Ko (-4), So Yeon Ryu (-3) and Brooke Henderson lurk within striking distance. There’s plenty of local action too for the hearty crowds at Lytham, which on Thursday looked far better than any day at Kingsbarns last year. For starters there’s Georgia Hall, the Englishwoman who enjoyed a break-out week at the 2017 Women’s British Open followed by a strong showing at the Solheim Cup, where she received high praise from both Annika Sorenstam and Juli Inkster. Hall opened with a 67.

Then there’s Florentyna Parker, who stood on the sixth tee four over and played the last 13 holes seven under. An ace on the par-3 ninth hole certainly spurred on the Englishwoman.

“Well, the thing is it’s my tenth Ricoh,” said Parker, a three-time winner on the Ladies European Tour. “I mean I’m not new to this game. And I know what can happen on a golf course, especially one like this. And you know, sometimes it helps, because you’re like, I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Three more English players broke par: Bronte Law (-2), Cloe Frankish (-2) and Charley Hull (-1).

Ko, a two-time major winner, hasn’t won one since the ANA in 2016. She started strong at Lytham after missing the cut last week in Scotland.

“I think confidence is a huge key for me,” said Ko, “but I just go out there and hit my shots without worrying about anything else.”

The morning wave played through heaps of rain, which American Angel Yin joked was good for her skin. The big-hitting Yin, who got her start playing on the Ladies European Tour, teed off before 7 a.m. and posted a bogey-free 69.

“A local told me yesterday that today was going to be sunny and the hottest day of the week,” said Yin. “Good thing I didn’t trust him and I brought an umbrella.”

World No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn rebounded from an early double-bogey on the second hole to card a 71 while older sister Moriya shot 3 under.

Catriona Matthew, who became the first Scot to win the Women’s British at Royal Lytham in 2009 only weeks after giving birth to her second daughter, opened with a 71.

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