North Berwick’s Catriona Matthew was the best of the Scots at six off the lead on two over par 74 after the first round of a testing day at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale.
Musselburgh’s Vikki Laing took eight after a lost ball at the 15th and posted a 78 while Elie’s Sally Watson, the top rookie on the Ladies’ European Tour, had a disappointing 80.
Watson made the cut as a 16-year-old amateur at St Andrews seven years ago but two halves of 40 made for an unhappy return to the women’s major.
Three players ran up nines on a windy day when the biggest hazard was the deep rough. One of the unlucky trio was Glasgow-born Kylie Walker. She ran up a quintuple bogey at the first by hitting her opening shot out of bounds and almost staged a repeat with the second. She went on to shoot 82.
Japan’s Ayako Uehara mastered the conditions to lead on four under par 68, one ahead of American Mo Martin.
Matthew’s highlights were a birdie at the ninth and another from tap-in range at the long 17th where she came close to making eagle.
“I’m relatively happy,” said the 2009 champion. “I’m not surprised that there are some high numbers because the rough is really brutal. I was a yard off the fairway at the first but had to take an unplayable. But I guessed that if I was finding it tough then everyone was finding it tough.”
For Uehara, a three-time winner in Japan who now plays in the States, it was her round of the year.
“I’ve really been struggling on the greens but today I holed a lot of good ones for birdies,” said the 30-year-old.
England’s Holly Clyburn was the best of the British contingent on one under par 71, while the big names were also near the top.
World No. 1 Stacy Lewis, who is hoping to retain the title she won at St Andrews last year, was content with her one under par 71, even more so after starting bogey, par, bogey.
“Anything under par is a great score today,” she said. “The conditions were pretty horrible so I was pleased to go on and make a few birdies.”
Michelle Wie, the US Women’s Open Champion, was a tad disappointed with her 75, her powerful hitting having resulted in a few less than favourable outcomes from the tee.
New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, at 17 the youngest in the field, bogeyed the last but still escaped with a 72.
Laura Davies, at 50 the oldest in the field, made a terrific birdie at the last for a 75.