This great summer of golf homecomings has led to nervous times. Rory McIlroy said his hands trembled when gripping a club after the ovation he received on the 1st tee at the Open Championship; the eight shots that followed played a crucial role in the Northern Irishman lasting only 36 holes at Portrush. Anguish was writ large over the face of Darren Clarke after his triple bogey at the 18th afforded him the same fate at his home club. With familiarity comes pressure.

Enter Charley Hull. Back at Woburn, where she became a member aged nine, the 23-year-old admitted to the same sensation as McIlroy on the opening hole of the Women’s British Open. There was no upcoming damage though; Hull did not post a single bogey en route to a 67.

“With that first tee shot, you feel silly if you miss the fairway because it’s so wide,” Hull said. “It was not the best but I got it down there. My hands were shaking but some of my best shots have come when shaking. It’s not necessarily the worst thing.”

This score had resonance beyond placing Hull near the top of the leaderboard. It was an improvement on any round from three years ago, when she toiled after so much fanfare in the buildup.

“It puts a bit of pressure on me but I played quite well today,” said Hull of the home support. “It’s quite tricky because I know where not to miss it. I know where to miss it, but I know where not to miss it, as well. In previous years I’ve hit [bad] shots around here and you just don’t want to think of them because obviously it’s my home golf course. I was quite happy with cancelling out all the bad shots I had hit one day and hit some good ones today. I feel like I’ve been playing well all year, I’ve just struggled to trust myself sometimes, so that’s where I suppose I haven’t been scoring. But today I just went out there and trusted myself and I’ve got to trust myself. I feel like I’m in a good mindset.”

Hull was understandably in bubbly form, having converted a birdie putt from 25ft at the last. That a five iron was required for her approach into that hole contrasts starkly with the nine iron used in the final round of 2016. Lengthening of Woburn’s Marquess Course for this tournament plays into Hull’s hands. In sticking to what had been a pre-tournament mantra, she insisted there were no thoughts of lifting the trophy on Sunday and emulating her good friend Georgia Hall, who won last year. “I’m only thinking about having a nap this afternoon after some shopping,” Hull said. “I just want to go out there and have fun. That’s the main goal this week. No expectations, just go out there and have fun. I am not getting ahead of myself.”

On a serene day, scoring was understandably good. Moriya Jutanugarn, seeking to propel herself back to the summit of the women’s game, matched Hull’s score. Ashleigh Buhai signed for a seven-under-par 65 to lead after the first round. The South African’s best British Open finish is a share of 30th, two years ago. “I played in the practice round and the wind was like 30ks an hour,” she said. “I was like: ‘Whoa, this is brutal’ but then today was perfect, everything you wanted, soft greens, hardly any wind and you could throw it at the pin.”

Japan’s Hinako Shibuno and Danielle Kang of the United States trail Buhai by one shot. The R&A’s upcoming management of this major – with 2020 and 2021 venues named as Troon and Porthcawl respectively – has led to speculation it may become the sole domain of links territory. Kang, for one, would not appreciate a permanent switch.

“This fits my game way better,” she said. “I feel like my track record on links golf, it’s not very good. I like if I have to hit 165, it goes 165 instead of hitting in one place and ending up another. I’m enjoying Woburn a lot.”

Lexi Thompson, fresh from a misplaced passport controversy, opened with a 71. Laura Davies birdied the 2nd but slumped to an 82 to sit bottom of the field. More surprising was that Jennifer Kupcho – fresh from a tie for second at the Evian Championship – could fare no better than 77.


source- theguardian media