ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Inbee Park has some catching up to do if she wants to become the first golfer to win four professional majors in one year.
Miki Saiki of Japan twice holed out for eagle on the front nine Friday set the Women's British Open record at St. Andrews with a 6-under 66 in decent scoring conditions. She posted a 36-hole score of 9-under 35 and had a one-shot lead over Morgan Pressel, who had a 70.
The early starters had to cope with bursts of rain that were strong enough to leave puddles on the Old Course. It was so bleak at one point that Pressel said, “It looked like the world was going to end.” But the wind was moderate. The rain kept the course soft. Low scores were available.
Park, who opened with a 69 on Thursday, headed out in tougher conditions in the afternoon.
The rain clouds were pushed away by a strong wind that stuck around St. Andrews, the strongest wind of the week. The Old Course can be a pushover in ideal conditions, and a beast when the wind blows.
Park opened with a bogey on the gentle first hole. She twice made par putts from the 5-foot range and got back the lost stroke with a birdie on the sixth to return to 3-under, six shots out of the lead.
Saiki's 66 broke by one shot the record set in 2007 by Lorena Ochoa, who won at St. Andrews, and by Saiki.
This round took a bit more luck.
She used an 8-iron from 127 yards on the fourth hole for an eagle, and then hit wedge into the hole from 108 yards on the seventh. Saiki made the turn in 30, and played even par on the back nine as the wind arrived for her 66.
Pressel missed a half-dozen birdie chances from inside 12 feet, including one on the 18th. She atoned for that by not dropping any shots on the back nine, which is more difficult. The longest par putt she faced as a 6-foot putt on the par-3 11th hole.
The Solheim Cup is on her mind, though Pressel figures to be a logical choice as a captain's pick even if she doesn't play her way onto the team. The Women's British Open is the final qualifying event before the matches in two weeks at Colorado Golf Club.
Now, the Floridian who has been playing majors since she was 13 can think about winning another one. Pressel won the Kraft Nabisco at age 18, the youngest player to win an LPGA Tour major.
“I've played well for two days, and I'm more focused on this tournament,” she said.
Michelle Wie faced pressure without knowing it. She needs a good tournament to boost her chances as a captain's pick for the Solheim Cup, and after opening with a 74, the Stanford graduate ran off four birdies on the front nine Friday. She began losing shots on the back, however, and Wie had to make a 6-footer to escape with bogey on the 17th hole. It was playing so difficult that even with her length, she had 208 yards into the green.
Wie was 1-over for the tournament, right on the projected cut line, when she hit into 5 feet on the 18th hole. She didn't see U.S. captain Meg Mallon off to the side, breaking off a conversation to say, “This is a big putt,” as she watched Wie. She poured it in for a 70 and was even for the championship.
Park has bigger goals.
No golfer, male or female, has ever won four professional majors in a single year. No one since the modern version of the Grand Slam was created in 1960 even had a chance at four in a row. The last golfer to win three straight majors in one season was Babe Zaharias in 1950, back when there were only three majors.
Calm as can be, Park's biggest test figured to be in the wind.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun