Buhai takes early command at Woburn
Ashleigh Buhai took the first-round lead at the AIG Women’s British Open on Thursday, seeking to become the second South African female Major winner, while South Korea’s Ko Jin-young started well in a quest to win back-to-back Majors.
Buhai’s best previous British Open finish was a tie for 30th in 2017 and she found herself in uncharted territory after notching eight birdies in a seven-under-par 65 at Woburn in Milton Keynes.
She may not have won on the LPGA Tour yet, but Buhai owns three Ladies European Tour titles and 11 victories on the Sunshine Ladies Tour and the experience showed as she recovered from her only bogey on the par-5 11th with consecutive birdies on holes 14, 15 and 16.
She headed American Danielle Kang and Japan’s Shibuno Hinako by one stroke, while local favourite Charley Hull was among a group two behind.
Four days after winning the Evian Championship in France, Ko continued her sizzling form with an eventful 68, while English defending champion Georgia Hall shot 69.
Buhai enjoyed a day when everything clicked and perhaps allowed her to dream of compatriot Sally Little as a major champion. Little won the 1980 Women’s PGA Championship and the 1988 du Maurier Classic.
“I’m feeling really confident with the putter and it’s been good the last few weeks,” said the 30-year-old Buhai. “Today I managed to hit a few more greens and rolled in the putts.
“In my last few tournaments, I’ve had three good rounds and one not so good round, so I’m hoping this is the week I can do four good rounds,” said Buhai, whose best finish this year was a tie for 11th. “The last few weeks, I have been just trying to stay mellow and keep everything in check, and it seems to be helping.”
Ko is seeking her third major title of the year after the Evian and ANA Inspiration in California in April.
It was not always such smooth sailing on the greens for the South Korean, who had a four-putt double-bogey at the 14th hole, where she missed a couple of three-footers.
That setback might have demoralised some players, but the world number one is made of sterner stuff.
She bounced back by hitting the cup with her approach shots at the par-five 15th and par-four 18th for what would have been a couple of most unlikely eagles.
Though neither fell in, she converted the birdie putts.
“The back nine was a lot of putts missed,” said Ko. “I tried to finish strong and I got a birdie on 18. It was a huge birdie.”
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