(Reuters) - Ashleigh Buhai took the first-round lead at the Women’s British Open on Thursday seeking to become the second South African female major winner, while South Korea’s Ko Jin-young started well in a quest to win back-to-back majors.
Buhai, without a top-25 finish at a major, found herself in uncharted territory after notching eight birdies in a seven-under-par 65 at Woburn in Milton Keynes.
She headed American Danielle Kang and Japan’s Shibuno Hinako by one stroke, while local favourite Charley Hull was among a group two behind.
Four days after winning the Evian Championship in France, Ko continued her sizzling form with an eventful 68, while English defending champion Georgia Hall shot 69.
Buhai enjoyed a day when everything clicked and perhaps allowed her to dream of joining fellow South African-born Sally Little as a major champion. Little won the 1980 Women’s PGA Championship and the 1988 du Maurier Classic.
“I’m feeling really confident with the putter and it’s been good the last few weeks,” Buhai, 30, said. “Today I managed to hit a few more greens and rolled in the putts.”
It was not always such smooth sailing on the greens for Ko, who had a four-putt double-bogey at the 14th hole, where she missed a couple of three-footers.
That setback might have demoralised some players, but the world number one is made of sterner stuff.
She bounced back by hitting the cup with her approach shots at the par-five 15th and par-four 18th for what would have been a couple of most unlikely eagles.
Though neither fell in, she converted the birdie putts.
“The back nine was a lot of putts missed,” said Ko. “I tried to finish strong and I got a birdie on 18. It was a huge birdie.”
Ko is seeking her third major title of the year after the Evian and ANA Inspiration in California in April.
There are five designated majors in the women’s game.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Greensboro, North Carolina; Ken Ferris