SOUTHPORT, England — Ayako Uehara of Japan felt confident with the putter and played in the best weather Royal Birkdale has to offer. It was the right combination to take the lead Thursday in the Women's British Open. And the best she could manage was 4-under 68.
Pot bunkers can present problems on any links course. Throw in some thick grass and par becomes a problem.
Michelle Wie could attest to that. The U.S. Women's Open champion spent too much time chipping out of sand and rough on her way to 75. Cristie Kerr didn't make a birdie, shot 81 and withdrew with a sore back. Only nine players broke par, all but two in the relative calm of a sunny morning along the Irish Sea.
"It's only going to get harder," defending champ Stacy Lewis said after 71. "Anything under par on this golf course is a good score."
Morgan Pressel scrambled her way to 70, joined by Sarah Kemp and Mina Harigae. The only players who broke par in the afternoon were former U.S. Open champion So Yeon Ryu and Amy Yang. Both shot 71.
"I don't think they can make it any easier," Pressel said of the course.
That doesn't bode well for Wie, who was introduced on the first tee as the U.S. Women's Open champion and then posted her highest score of the year. Wie had to birdie the par-5 18th hole — the only time she hit driver — to finish 3 over. "Thought I made a good game plan," Wie said. "Just didn't hit good shots today."
The best comeback belonged to Jessica Korda, who went out in 39, then made four birdies on the back nine to return to par.
Monty leads Senior Open: Colin Montgomerie birdied four of his last seven holes for a one-shot lead in the opening round of the U.S. Senior Open at Edmond, Okla. Seeking his second major victory on the Champions Tour, Montgomerie had eight birdies and two bogeys for 6-under 65 in rain-softened, relatively calm conditions at Oak Tree National. Montgomerie, 51, who was paired with Rocco Mediate (70) and Tom Lehman (72), said: "I was patient. I was relaxed. We had a good time. I was happy with the pairing we had, the three who were playing together. We played a lot together over the first year of my Champions Tour life. But the statistics, you know, add up. Sixteen greens out of 18 (in regulation). Not bad statistics, really. And then 11 fairways out of 14. You'd take that." Reigning champ Kenny Perry, who earned his third consecutive senior major title at the Regions Tradition in May, shot 4-over 75. First-round play was suspended due to darkness with three players left on the course. They were to finish this morning.
European PGA: Three years after virtually giving up on links golf, a more mature Rory McIlroy appears ready to give it another chance. McIlroy tamed blustery conditions on Day 1 of the Scottish Open to shoot 7-under 64, giving him a one-stroke lead and showing his links game is in great shape ahead of next week's British Open at Hoylake. "I feel I am as prepared as I have ever been to play this type of golf," a smiling McIlroy said after rolling in eight birdies, six of which came in seven holes from Nos. 8-14 at Royal Aberdeen. Kristoffer Broberg — who went out in the first group at 6:30 a.m. local time — and Ricardo Gonzalez shot 65. Phil Mickelson missed a 3-foot par putt on the final hole for his only bogey in a 68, a solid start to the defense of his title.
PGA: Zach Johnson, Rory Sabbatini and Brian Harman shot 8-under 63 to share a one-stroke lead at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill. Harman, who bettered his best round of 2014 by two shots, was 2 under through six when his caddie took ill. Jay Hatch of Davenport, Iowa, a high school basketball coach, volunteered from the gallery and carried Harman's bag the last 12 holes, which Harman played in 6 under.