Lydia Ko opens with par round at Britsh Open

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 07:03 14/09/2012
Lydia Ko
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IN TOUCH: Lydia Ko hits her second shot on the 12th hole during the first round of the British Open.

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She fell two shots short of her target but New Zealand's teenage golf star Lydia Ko is still right in the mix heading into the second round of the Women's British Open tonight.

The 15-year-old amateur sensation wanted to shoot two-under par to take advantage of what could possibly be the best conditions of the week, early on the first morning, but had to settle for an even-par 72 in the opening round which sees her share of 12th in the 144-strong field.

She is just two shots off the pace being set by two South Koreans, Haeji Kang and So-Yeon Ryu, who carded two-under 70s. Nobody broke 70 on the demanding Royal Liverpool links at Hoylake, near Liverpool.

''The goal was two-under because the weather was quite benign compared to what you'd expect, but at the end of the day even-par is completely acceptable, as you can see from the scores,'' Ko's coach and caddie, Guy Wilson, said this morning.

''In an Open Campionship, you can't be too unhappy with even-par. She struck it really well. The goal is too miss as many pot bunkers off the tee as possible beacuse it's almost instant bogey so she did well in that sense, only finding one (which led to a bogey at the second).''

Ko had five birdies and five bogeys and, after 10 holes, shared the lead at two-under.

But four of her bogeys came in a six-hole stretch, from holes No 2 to No 7, on her back nine - she teed off on the 10th hole - just after her group, which included American Lexi Thompson and Japan's Kaori Ohe, had been put on the clock for slow play.

Ohe was the culprit after requiring several toilet breaks, including one just after they were put on the clock.

''We were under the pump, we were pretty much running between the shots so it was difficult to get into a rhythm,'' Wilson explained.

''We had to try and catch up, and then we caught up to the group ahead of us on the sixth hole and we had to sit on our bums for 20 minutes.''

Wilson was hesitant to put her bogey run all down to the situation.

''She just missed a drive on the second and missed the green a couple of times and couldn't get up and down with some chips she would normally do.''

Still, two birdies on the front nine - her back nine - saw her limit the damage.

Ko was tied for 11th when she was one of the first players to sign her card but, as expected, the 72 players who teed off in the afternoon struggled more than the morning field as the wind got up.

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By day's end, she had only dropped just one spot to a share of 12th. There is a group of nine players at one-under, with Ko among 17 players at even-par.

However, her big test is likely to come in the second round. She tees off at 11.40am (10.40pm tonight NZT) and, with winds expected to approach 50 miles per hour, the New Zealander could well face the toughest of the conditions.

''I think there's going to be a lot more wind,'' Wilson said. ''But it doesn't make it play that much harder, as long as you play for it. We'll just have longer shots in.''

It was a solid if unspectacular start for Ko, who paid for the few mistakes she did make but held her round together like a seasoned professional.

Playing in just her second major and with the eyes of the golfing world firmly fixed on her, the 15-year-old amateur sensation battled a cold putter on her front nine - holes 10 through 18. She missed two putts inside four feet while several birdie attempts lipped out.

''The greens were a lot faster than what we'd played previously, they were a lot quicker downhill and downwind than we'd had, so it was hard for her to be confident with those 10-footers,'' Wilson said.

However, she put two birdies together around the turn and after 10 holes she had moved to two-under, with a share of the lead.

But the world's top-ranked amateur bogeyed four of her next six to drop to one-over par, before getting back to even with a lovely birdie at the par-four eighth, her 17th hole of the day.

In all she had five birdies, three of which came at the par-fives, and five bogeys for a steady start on the unforgiving links course.

Her task will be to limit the damage tomorrow and give herself a chance at the weekend.

Ko last month became the youngest winner on the top professional tour in the world, the LPGA, backing up from her victory at the US Amateur Championship two weeks earlier.

She tied for 39th and won low amateur honours at the US Open in her first major in June.

- Fairfax Media

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