ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Wearing a black rain suit and a soft smile, Inbee Park looked calm as ever standing before the imposing Royal & Ancient clubhouse before she teed off Thursday in the Women’s British Open.
Only after her unsteady round of 3-under 69 did Park reveal perhaps the biggest surprise at St. Andrews.
She was nervous.
“But then once the round started, and especially playing so good in the first few holes, that really gave me a lot of confidence,” Park said. “I didn’t feel much pressure when I was playing during the round. I’m just glad that it’s already started and I got the first round under my belt.”
Park wound up three shots behind Morgan Pressel and Camilla Lennarth of Sweden, a solid start to what should be a fascinating week at the home of golf.
Her pursuit of history looked more like a high-speed chase when the 25-year-old South Korean made six birdies in 10 holes. Three poor tee shots, two three-putt bogeys and one double bogey from a pot bunker on the back nine made her realize there’s a reason no golfer has ever won four majors in a single year.
She was only too happy it finally stopped with a 6-foot birdie on the 18th hole, ending a slide during which she dropped four shots in a five-hole span.
Pressel, one spot out of making the U.S. Solheim Cup team this week, caught a break when the rain and wind never materialized in the afternoon. She made seven birdies in a round of 66 that gave her a share of the lead.
Stacy Lewis, the former No. 1 player in women’s golf, shot 31 on the tougher back nine for a 67 to be part of a large group that included former U.S. Women’s Open champion Na Yeon Choi and Nicole Castrale. Another shot behind were Paula Creamer, Catriona Matthew and Lizette Salas.
Webb Simpson shot a 6-under 64 in his first competitive round at Firestone Country Club to take a one-stroke lead in the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.
The 2012 U.S. Open champion had six birdies in an eight-hole span to get the upper hand on seven-time Bridgestone winner Tiger Woods. Woods, with top-10 finishes in 11 of his 13 starts on the course, shot a 66 in the World Golf Championships event.
Henrik Stenson was alone in second with a 65. Defending champion Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore and Chris Wood, another first-time entrant, matched Woods at 66.
Phil Mickelson had a 72 in his return from winning the British Open two weeks ago at Muirfield.