The Associated Press
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Before she can think of four in a row, Inbee Park first has to make up an eight-shot deficit at the Women’s British Open.
Playing in the strongest wind this week, she had a pair of three-putt bogeys in a round of 1-over 73 that left her closer to the cut line than the lead.
Those rugged conditions Friday afternoon were no problem for Na Yeon Choi. She had a 5-under 67 — nearly nine shots lower than the field average for the afternoon — and had a one-shot lead over Miki Saiki of Japan. Saiki set the Old Course record for the Women’s British Open at 6-under 66 in the morning, which featured bursts of showers but very little wind until late in the round.
Conditions were so demanding that when Choi was asked to give details of her six birdies, she couldn’t recall much further back than the 17th hole.
“Five hours out there, this kind of weather, it’s hard to remember,” she said.
It’s a round Park would like to forget, one that will make her quest even more difficult to become the first golfer to win four professional majors in one year.
The wind carried her approach across the Swilcan Burn and through the green on the opening hole, and from about 50 feet away hit a poor chip that only got halfway there and led to a bogey. The 25-year-old South Korean was never under par for her round.
Still even par for the round after a 6-foot birdie on No. 12, she hit her best drive of the day on the toughest driving hole into the wind at No. 13, only for the ball to take one last turn and settle in a divot. Park came up just short of the green, rolled a putt about 10 feet by the cup and missed it for bogey. On the 17th, her shot skirted up left side of the Road Hole Bunker and onto the green, some 50 feet away. Her first putt was a yard off line and settled 8 feet below the cup, leading to another three-putt bogey.
But it was tough for everyone in the afternoon — except for Choi, who had a score that looked as if she were on the New Course — and Park isn’t ruling herself out.
Neither is anyone else.
“The tough, gritty players can win this,” Stacy Lewis said after a hard-fought 72 left her five shots behind. “Anybody under par is not out of this.”
Choi was at 10-under 134.
Morgan Pressel took another step toward locking up a spot on the Solheim Cup team with a 70 in the morning, leaving her two shots out of the lead. She now can think squarely about the Women’s British Open, and perhaps adding a second major to the Kraft Nabisco Championship she won in 2007 as an 18-year-old.
Nicole Castrale, also making a last-ditch effort to make the Solheim Cup team, shot 34 on the tough back nine for a 70 and was in the group at 7-under 137 that included Jee Young Lee and Suzann Pettersen.
Choi is a former U.S. Women’s Open champion, so she has proved she can handle difficult conditions. What helped was having her entire team with her this week — notably her Irish coach, Robin Symes, and his friend, who is working as a caddie. Her game management coaches, Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, also are at St. Andrews.
She had to handle the blustery wind by herself.
“I had a daily goal, so I just tried to stick with the goal,” Choi said. “It could be like par is 74 or 75 today. But I didn’t care — par 3, par 4, par 5, doesn’t matter to me. I just try to play one shot at a time, and I think that’s why I had great results.”
Mark Wiebe leads 3M Championship
BLAINE, Minn. — Mark Wiebe followed his Senior British Open playoff victory with an 8-under 64 on Friday in the 3M Championship to take a one-stroke lead over Kenny Perry and Corey Pavin.
Four days after beating Bernhard Langer on the fifth extra hole in a Monday finish at Royal Birkdale, Wiebe had eight birdies in a bogey-free first round at TPC Twin Cities.
Running on adrenaline after the long week in England was compounded by travel issues that prevented him from getting to Minnesota until Wednesday, Wiebe made a 35-foot birdie putt on the fifth hole and a birdie from the off the fringe on No. 7. After those putts, playing partners Nick Price and Jay Haas told Wiebe to “Keep riding that pony.”
Wiebe, slowed by right elbow and back ailments earlier this year, birdied five of the last seven holes on the front nine and added birdies on Nos. 12, 14 and 16.
Perry is making his first since winning the Senior Players Championship and U.S. Senior Open in consecutive starts for his first major victories. He skipped the Senior British Open because of a family commitment.