The English fans thronging to Woburn Golf Club had plenty to cheer for, with Charley Hull (T4), defending champion Georgia Hall (T11) and Bronte Law (T21) leading the charge with three bogey-free rounds. Hull, who has been a member at Woburn since age 11, opened with a 5-under 67 on Thursday. She may actually feel more pressure than Hall to perform well this week, given her familiarity with the course.
“Sometimes it's harder when it's your home golf course because you know where not to hit it as well as where to hit it,” said Hull. “Like today, for instance, the 13th hole, it's the first time I've hit that fairway for about three years, so I was quite happy about it.”
Hall proved that she is more than up to the challenge of becoming the first back-to-back AIG Women’s British Open winner since Yani Tseng in 2010 and 2011. Hall’s 3-under 69 was a round buoyed by all the support she felt from her compatriots outside the ropes.
“I think it's important for me to take all the emotions in and really enjoy it,” said Hall, who like last year has her dad Wayne on the bag this week. “I loved it out there today. I had a lot of fun, and I just said to myself, just go out there and enjoy it, and I did, and I just loved having so much support.”
In April, Law joined the ranks of LPGA champions when she captured the Pure Silk Championship in Virginia. On Thursday and Friday, she is playing alongside European Solheim Cup CaptainCatriona Matthew, and her 2-under 70 helped lock her in as a favorite to receive a coveted captain’s pick when the team is selected following next week’s tournament.
“I just tried to go out there and play my game, and ultimately it's a major, so the goal is to like win the major as opposed to really worry about what she's thinking or anything like that,” said Law. “Yeah, just focused on my game, and just pleased with how solid I played.”
STEADY PLAY PAYS OFF FOR A “CHUFFED” ASHLEIGH BUHAI
For the first time since she turned professional in 2007, Ashleigh Buhai will sleep on the lead at a major championship. The 30-year-old from Johannesburg, South Africa, fired a 7-under 65 in Thursday’s first round of the AIG Women’s British Open, tied for the best round of her LPGA career. Despite an unplayable lie on No. 11 that led to her only bogey of the day, Buhai was all smiles as she walked off the golf course after carding eight birdies to that lone bogey. She even used some proper British slang, fittingly saying she was “chuffed” with the way she played.
“Today was perfect golfing conditions, everything you wanted, soft greens, hardly in the wind and you could throw it at the pin,” said Buhai. “Although you're hitting longer clubs in, the greens are receptive, so it was at least easier to get it closer.”
Buhai spent the week of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship working closely with her coach, especially on her short game. She said she has been seeing progress over the last few weeks, and it satisfyingly all came together on Thursday at Woburn Golf Club.
“I felt I've been swinging it well, I'm hitting the target and into the zones that my coach and I talk about, and holing some really good putts,” she said. “I'm feeling really confident with the putter and it's been good the last few weeks. Today I managed to just hit a few more greens and rolled in the putts.”
Buhai’s best major finish came at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open, where she tied for 27th. She is aiming to become the second South African major winner, joining Sally Little, who won the 1980 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the 1988 du Maurier Classic.
NO. 1 KO LOOKING FOR THIRD MAJOR TITLE OF 2019
Only six players have won three professional major championships in a single season – Pat Bradley, Ben Hogan, Inbee Park, Tiger Woods, Mickey Wright and Babe Zaharias. With a win at the AIG Women’s British Open, Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko can join that elite list, having won the 2019 ANA Inspiration and Evian Championship.
Ko’s first-round 68, an up-and-down affair that featured seven birdies, one bogey and an uncharacteristic four-putt double-bogey at No. 14, puts her in a tie for eighth after 18 holes.
“I tried to focus on my game. I did it on the front nine, but the back nine was a lot of putts missed,” said Ko. “I tried to finish strong, No. 16, 17, 18, and I got a birdie on 18. It was a huge birdie. Looking forward to the next three days.”
Rolex Rankings No. 123 Ashleigh Buhai (65)
- Buhai’s first-round 65 is her best round at the AIG Women’s British Open; her previous best was a 67 in the third round in 2017 at Kingsbarns
- Her 65 is tied for the best round of her LPGA Tour career, joining the 65s she shot in the first round of the 2019 Meijer LPGA Classic and the third round of the 2017 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic
- Buhai has held LPGA Tour Membership since 2008; her best finish is second at the 2017 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic
- This is Buhai’s 18th event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is a tie for 11th at the Pure Silk Championship presented by Visit Williamsburg
- She is competing in her 12th AIG Women’s British Open; her best finish is a tie for 30th in 2017 at Kingsbarns, while she tied for 47th at the 2016 championship held at Woburn
- She spent 2010 to 2013 on the Ladies European Tour, where she has three career victories
- Buhai represented South Africa at the 2016 Summer Olympics, where she finished 50th
Rolex Rankings No. 14 Danielle Kang (66)
- Kang’s first-round 66 is her best round at the AIG Women’s British Open; her previous best was a 68 in the first round in 2013 at the Old Course at St. Andrews
- Kang is in her eighth season on the LPGA Tour; she has wins at the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the 2018 Buick LPGA Shanghai
- This is Kang’s 16th event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is a tie for second at the Kia Classic
- She is competing in her ninth AIG Women’s British Open; her best finish is a tie for 42nd in 2013 and has missed the last three consecutive cuts, including at the 2016 championship held at Woburn
- Kang has already locked in a spot on the 2019 U.S. Solheim Cup Team
Rolex Rankings No. 46 Hinako Shibuno (66)
- Shibuno is playing in her first AIG Women’s British Open and first-ever LPGA Tour event
- She is a 20-year-old rookie on the JLPGA; she has two victories on that tour in 2019, including a major win at the World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup
- Shibuno is trying to become the second Japanese player to win a women’s major championship, joining Chako Higuchi, who won the 1977 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
TV TIMES (all times Eastern)
Aug. 2 – 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Golf Channel)
Aug. 3 – 7-11 a.m. (Golf Channel), 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (NBC)
Aug. 4 – 7-11:30 a.m. (Golf Channel), 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (NBC)