The 2014 LPGA season kicks into second gear with the Women's British Open getting underway on Thursday. It's the third major of the year, with Americans capturing the first two, but a wide-open field in England promises plenty of drama.
Stacy Lewis, the 2013 British Open champion, is looking to defend her crown, but she will have to come from behind starting on Friday if she wants to become the first repeat winner since Yani Tseng in 2010-11.
Michelle Wie, who won the Ladies' U.S. Open in June, will try to capture back-to-back majors. Her path to a title is more arduous than Lewis' thanks to a slow start on Thursday with a three-over 75.
Another past U.S. Open champion in Paula Creamer is trying to get back on track after two disappointing finishes in majors this year. Like Wie, she also has a huge mountain to climb after shooting a three-over 75, despite this nice save on the ninth hole, courtesy of National Club Golfer on Twitter:
Those are just a few of the early storylines we are following at Royal Birkdale Golf Club. Below is a recap of the entire first round, including the leaderboard and top storylines from Thursday's action.
|2014 Women's British Open Leaderboard, Round 1|
|1. Ayako Uehara||-4 (68)|
|2. Mo Martin||-3 (69)|
|T3. Morgan Pressel||-2 (70)|
|T3. Mina Harigae||-2 (70)|
|T3. Sarah Kemp||-2 (70)|
|T6. Holly Clyburn||-1 (71)|
|T6. Stacy Lewis||-1 (71)|
|T6. Amy Yang||-1 (71)|
|T6. So Yeon Ryu||-1 (71)|
|T10. Lexi Thompson||E (72)|
Full leaderboard can be found at LPGA.com
Ayako Uehara Sets Stellar Pace
You would be forgiven if the top of the leaderboard left you doing a double-take, trying to figure out more information about Ayako Uehara, who set the pace on Thursday with a four-under-par 68 to grab the early lead.
Uehara made one mistake on the first hole, shooting a five on the par four, but bounced back strong with five birdies on the final 17 holes. The 30-year-old is ranked 125th in the world and hasn't finished higher than 25th in any event this year.
A native of Japan, Uehara told reporters after the round that her key to success was putting. She ran off three birdies in four holes from Nos. 5 to 8 and finished with a birdie on No. 18.
Stacy Lewis Feeling Good After First Round
Lewis, the top golfer on tour, got off to a rousing start in her quest for a second straight British Open title, firing a one-under-par 71. You could tell where the good scores were going to be found, as the American star was part of the first group with Uehara.
In her post-round interview with LPGA.com, Lewis didn't sound too thrilled with her performance, mentioning that she didn't hit the ball great but was "able to make some putts" to salvage the day:
Lewis has been on fire virtually all season, finishing in the top 10 a remarkable 13 times in 15 tournaments thus far. Based on her start her, as well as her confident comments to Beth Ann Nichols of GolfWeek.com, the 29-year-old figures to be in that spot again:
While she's not exactly Tiger Woods at his apex, Lewis is so far ahead of the field in the world rankings with a 12.22 average, compared to 9.92 for second-ranked Lydia Ko. As long as she's hanging around the top of the leaderboard, all eyes will be on her.
Michelle Wie Struggles to Find Fairways
Coming off the biggest win of her career at the U.S. Open in June, expectations were understandably high for Wie at the British Open. If Thursday's first round is any indication, she won't be around long enough to enjoy the event.
Wie got off to a bad start with a bogey on the first hole, came back with a birdie on No. 2, but never found a rhythm after that. She finished the first round with five bogeys and two birdies, putting her at three-over par.
As noted by the Associated Press, via the Los Angeles Times, Wie's game plan was to play conservative on the par fives. That would have been a good strategy if she could find a fairway on the other holes, missing the short grass 50 percent of the time.
The only solace for Wie following her disappointing round is it will take an even worse effort on Friday to miss the cut. There were 77 players who shot worse than the 2014 U.S. Open champion on Thursday by the time she finished.
Unfortunately, the first major win was supposed to open doors for Wie. Instead, she wasn't able to capitalize on that momentum.
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