REUTERS: American Amy Olson carded a four-under-par 67 to take a three-shot lead in the women's British Open on Thursday as several players struggled to come to grips with the unforgiving conditions at the Royal Troon Golf Club in Scotland.
The year's first women's golf major since the pandemic shut down the tour had only three players finish under par as strong winds clocking 65 km per hour buffeted the links course.
Olson bogeyed the par-four third but held firm to sink two birdies to go one-under at the turn. The 28-year-old then birdied the tougher 11th, 14th and 16th holes to take the outright lead.
"That was the best ball-striking day of my life," Olson said. "I kept the trajectory on every shot what I wanted."
Her compatriot Marina Alex and Germany's Sophia Popov tied for second while 10 others tied for fourth on even par.
"This is by far the worst weather I've had playing links golf," world number four Nelly Korda of the U.S. said after she carded 72.
South Korea's contingent from the top 10 did not travel for the LPGA event over COVID-19 concerns but Inbee Park made the trip after she was satisfied with the safety protocols, marking her return to the LPGA Tour for the first time since February.
However, the former world number one currently ranked 12th, was no match for the course either, carding 77 which included six bogeys and a double-bogey on the seventh.
England's Laura Davies, 56, was given the honour of hitting the opening tee shot as she celebrated her 40th consecutive appearance at the event since making her debut as a teenaged amateur in 1980.
The first women's golf major scheduled for this year, the Evian Championship from Aug. 6-9 in France, was cancelled because of the pandemic which also forced the cancellation of the men's British Open at Sandwich.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)