Annika Sorenstam will be pleased with the strong showing from her European players, as seven of them sit inside the top-10 places after round one of the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
Anne Van Dam, Mel Reid and Jodi Ewart Shadoff lead the European contingency in a tie for fourth place at five-under-par, but arguably the performance of the day came from Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist.
The Swede shot an impressive four-under-par, 68, despite having not played competitively since the U.S. Women’s Open three weeks ago. This is because she has been recovering from gout fever, which has seen her bedridden.
After having to pull out of the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open because of her illness, Nordqvist will now rely on a wildcard pick from Sorenstam if she is to have any chance of playing at this year’s Solheim Cup because she will not have played in the required number of qualifying events on the Ladies European Tour.
However, Europe’s highest ranked player in the world has today shown that she is up for the fight and still in form after her four-under-par round, which included five birdies.
“I'm a little exhausted right now, but today has been a pretty good day,” Nordqvist said. “I had a rough day yesterday, so I didn't do much practice, didn't play, but it was amazing how well I was hitting the ball today. Gave myself a lot of opportunities, and it seemed like a pretty easy 4-under today, actually.
“Obviously you want to play your way on to the team and that's been my main goal, so it was definitely a really hard phone call making to Annika saying that I have to pull out of Scottish Open at the last minute. This will be my first late withdrawal in nine years on Tour, so it wasn't something I was planning on. But I feel like I've been playing good this year, and I'll leave it at that.
“I think I've done what I can up to this point. My main concern is just getting healthy because I don't want to let down my team. It would be devastating not being able to play. We'll take it day by day and get as much rest as possible. I obviously want to be playing matches and get on the team, but right now my main concern is just getting healthy.”
It was England’s Mel Reid who was in the clubhouse first at five-under-par and led the field, as well as her European teammates, after taking advantage of the generous early morning conditions.
“You're not going to get it much calmer than what we had it this morning, so it was important to take advantage of that and post a good score,” Reid said. “This is why we practice hours upon hours upon hours, to put ourselves in position to win big tournaments like this, and to win it here would be extra special just because it's one of my favorite places to play. I love links golf. British Open is always the highlight of my year.
“What would it mean to me? I mean, it would mean having a massive party. I'm pretty good at that. There's a lot of my family here, and that's why there would be a big party on Sunday night.”
At four-under-par are LET Solheim Cup Points list leader Georgia Hall, Rolex Rankings Solheim qualifier Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies.
The latter rolled back the years and even threatened leader Michelle Wie as she got it to six-under-par through 14 holes. And this was from a player who only qualified via a 14 person playoff that teed off at 8 p.m. on Tuesday evening and was not afforded a practice round at Kingsbarns.
Unfortunately, upon return from an hour-long rain delay, Davies began to struggle. She double-bogied the 15th hole and followed that with a bogey at 16. However, the veteran would finish with a final-hole birdie to finish the day at four-under-par.
“If you're going well, you don't want a delay,” Davies said. “If you're going badly, sometimes you get that delay and you can regroup and come back. Certainly, just having made that birdie on the 14th, probably the hardest hole on the course today, I hit 5- iron in there.
“We knew something was coming because I hit a terrible tee shot but I was trying so hard to hold it up against the wind, and then of course the delay and we got soaked, and it's hard to regroup.
“But luckily, I made a good par on 17 and I had a chance for a birdie, but settled it down after the double bogey-bogey, and yeah, a couple of good shots at the last. very pleased. I played pretty well but putted great.”
Charley Hull also briefly challenged Wie when she made it to six under through 15 holes, however back-to-back bogies on 16 and 17 saw Hull fall back to four-under-par where she would finish the day.
“I was pretty happy about my round,” Hull said: “Shame about the three-putt on 17 and 16, but I actually hit good shots into the greens there, just three-putted as the greens were a bit slow because I think the rain came in.
“But 17 I felt I hit a good putt, it just bobbled a little bit. It was only like two feet. But I'm pretty happy with the way I'm hitting it, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's round.”
Hall continued her steady form that has seen her rise to the top of the LET Solheim Cup Points list and picked up a few pointers from Gary Player in the buildup to this year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open.
“He said you should never feel sorry for yourself and never give up,” Hall said. “A few times you kind of get a bit low, but I kind of never gave up. I kept on trying, and with my putting, he said always keep your head down. I'm getting a bit lower on the golf balls, so it's working. It's good.
“I loved it. I love links golf, and it was good to play well today. I played really steady. I hit every fairway, so that kind of made things a little bit easier for me.”
Elsewhere, Caroline Masson and Azahara Munoz made cases for a captain’s pick as they both shot respectable rounds of three-under-par, 69. Both players will require captain’s picks to make the side and their performances today won’t have done their chances any harm.
All in all, the performances today from the European’s in the field will give Sorenstam great confidence in the short run in to the Solheim Cup.