Alena Sharp thought the 6:30 a.m. tee time might offer relief from the wind. Not the case at Royal Troon, where fences fell down as she warmed up on the range. Sharp cranked her first tee shot out of bounds at the AIG Women’s British Open and double-bogeyed the opening hole.
The Canadian veteran used to hate playing in the wind, but has since learned to enjoy the grind, an attitude that served her well in an opening even-par 71, one back of leader Sophia Popov.
Nelly Korda’s opening drive went 187 yards. She then watched her 5-iron balloon into the air 140 yards, landing short of the green.
“I had a hard time walking,” said Korda, who added that she finds it fun to play in this type of weather. Korda finished at 1 over on the day, a fine score in a four-club wind.
Catriona Matthew, the great Scot, knows better than anyone how important patience plays on days like this. The 50-year-old European Solheim Cup captain and 2009 British Open champion, didn’t miss a fairway in her opening 71, birdieing three of her last four holes.
“I think probably the biggest thing is not fighting the wind,” said Matthew. “Sometimes when it’s as strong as this, you just have to play with the wind.”
Popov’s journey to Troon was certainly more eventful that most. The German qualified for the year’s first major by finishing tied for ninth at the Marathon LPGA Classic, using a pull cart. She then flew to Phoenix where she played in a Symetra Tour event in temperatures that soared well over 100 degrees, finishing second. Popov arrived in Scotland on Tuesday and played in one practice round before vaulting to the top of the leaderboard.
“It’s nice to kind of get a little bit of a head start,” said Popov, who has boyfriend Max on the bag this week. “You never know how things are tomorrow and how brutal the weather is going to be. No one can really prepare me for what’s going to come tomorrow. It might go totally sideways.”
Popov, who played collegiate golf at USC, kept sharp throughout the coronavirus pandemic by competing in Cactus Tour events, winning three of them.
“I definitely think it was beneficial,” said Popov, playing in only her second Women’s British Open. “Just to keep my head in the game and to keep the competitive juices flowing because it is so easy to come back after three or four months of not playing and just being very nervous and not knowing where your game is at.”
Georgia Hall, winner of the 2018 British Open at Lytham and lover of links, couldn’t feed off the British gallery but likes where she stands after an opening 73. sits three shots back after
“I’m so used to having friends and family there, and people I know,” said Hall of the fan-free atmosphere. “This is where I get my most support, which really kind of spurs me on. But I know there’s loads of people watching at home, and I’ve just got to focus on my golf.”
Dame Laura Davies hit the opening tee shot on Thursday in her 40th appearance in the Women’s British. She was eight over after six holes but battled back to finish at 9 over. After a quick bite to eat, the World Golf Hall of Famer was in the booth commentating for Sky Sports.