Uehara leads early, Wie struggles at Birkdale

DOUG FERGUSON
Last updated 03:29 11/07/2014

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Ayako Uehara of Japan got her one mistake out of the way early and opened with a four-under 68 to lead the Women's British Open on Thursday (local time).

Michelle Wie couldn't stop making them.

Coming off her first major at the US Women's Open, Wie missed half of her fairways and stuck to a conservative plan on the par fives that produced only one birdie. That was on her final hole at Royal Birkdale and allowed her to salvage a 75.

"Thought I made a good game plan," Wie said. "Just didn't hit good shots today."

Even with only a mild breeze off the Irish Sea in the morning, Royal Birkdale was plenty difficult. Halfway through the opening round, only seven players were under par. Uehara and Mo Martin (69) were the only players to break 70.

Defending champion Stacy Lewis played in the same group as Uehara and shot 71 in what might be the easiest conditions all week.

"It's only going to get harder," Lewis said. "Anything under par on this golf course is a good score."

Uehara made bogey on the opening hole and didn't drop a shot the rest of the way. She ran off three birdies in a four-hole stretch, and then was flawless on the back nine as the breeze slightly strengthened. She made a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-three 12th hole and finished with a birdie on the par-five 18th.

"Today, putting so good," she said. "Before this week, my putting not so good."

Morgan Pressel was even better on the greens. She took 23 putts in her round of 70 to join Mina Harigae and Sarah Kemp only two shots out of the lead. Even though Pressel made only four birdies, she escaped with pars when she found trouble off the tee and one time salvaged a bogey.

Pressel went from the left rough to the right rough on the tough 16th hole into the wind. With the pin to the right behind a bunker, she purposely played short of the green and got up-and-down to limit the damage.

"I was happy that I made it look easier than it actually was," Pressel said.

Her only regret was finishing with par on the two closing holes, both par 5s that typically are downwind. Pressel came up short with a hybrid five-iron on the 17th and missed a 10-foot birdie putt, and she had only a six-iron for her second shot into the 18th, found a bunker and took two to get out. She got up-and-down for par.

Among the later starters, Paula Creamer followed a double bogey with consecutive bogeys and made the turn in 39, while former major champions Na Yeon Choi (seven-over through 10 holes) and Cristie Kerr (5 over through nine) already were lagging behind.

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Wie tried to rely on her powerful stinger off the tee to keep her shots short of the bunkers and out of the thick grass. She hit only seven fairways, however, leading to three of her bogeys.

"I definitely felt like my tempo was a little bit off," Wie said. "But it's a long way until Sunday, and I battled out there. It's not the score I was looking forward to on Thursday, but it could have been a lot worse."

- AP

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