Alena Sharp welcomed the news that the AIG Women’s Open had received the green light, despite the coronavirus pandemic, to proceed at Royal Troon, located on the Firth of Clyde on the west coast of Scotland.
“I was so ecstatic to see that we were going to get to play Royal Troon and it wasn’t going to get canceled.” said Sharp after her first round on Thursday.
“We are lucky we get to play some of these amazing courses. I have ancestry from here. My grandmother was born in Greenock and my uncle was born in Glasgow. I feel like they were watching over me today and giving me a little help out there,” she added.
It was an opening round in which all players in the field could have used some help. In the first round of the first women’s major of the year, Sharp had the first tee time alongside an English legend, Dame Laura Davies, who struggled to a nine over 80.
“I was very honoured to play with the first tee shot at Royal Troon, her 40th British Open and to have her hit the first shot, it was amazing to be in that group. Yeah, it was a rough start, but she battled through like the champion she is,” said Sharp, who had a rough start to the day herself.
Thinking at 6:30 a.m. local time that the wind might not be as much of a factor, Sharp discovered quickly that nothing would come easily.
“When we were warming up, it was blowing. Fences were blowing down,” said Sharp, who hit her first shot of the day out of bounds and took a double bogey.
“It’s not obviously the way I wanted to start the day, but it actually woke me up a little bit and I started playing some good golf shots after that and made a few putts and just grinded my way,” she said.
“I seem to be one of those wind players later on in my career; I hated playing in the wind before, but now, I really enjoy it. You just have to do your best to keep it in the short grass and make a lot of two-putts,” she added.
“I was just like, `Okay, you need to wake up, start playing golf shots. Don’t be afraid of the wind. This is just like all the other rounds I’ve played in the wind.’ From there on, I was just in grind mode the rest of the day,” said Sharp.
With birdies on the fourth and fifth holes, she got it back to even par, but four bogeys over the next five holes seemingly had her headed for an inflated opening round score, but she got it back to even with four birdies over her final eight holes to finish with a 71 that gave her the clubhouse lead.
At the end of the day, she was tied for fourth, four shots off the lead.
“It was very tricky. The first eight or nine holes, the wind is off the right and then you turn and it goes off the left and it’s down, so I had to change my game plan on the back nine a lot with tee shots, but I kept it in the fairway, which is very helpful and I played pretty well going downwind on the back nine,” said Sharp.
Brooke Henderson, in her first tournament since the break ended, put up two double bogeys, a birdie and a bogey to make the turn at four over, then added three bogeys and a birdie on her second nine to finish with a 77 to go into the second round tied for 88th.
It won’t get any easier the rest of the way when more adjustments will be required in a war of attrition in which anybody can either miss the cut or take home the championship.
The temperature drops a couple of degrees to 18 C for Friday’s second round in which there is a 90 per cent probability of precipitation, with a variable wind to 39 km/hr. Saturday’s third round will be about the same temperature with showers and a variable wind to 29 km/hr.
Scattered showers are expected for Sunday’s finale with wind as high as 21 km/hr.
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