Ca­tri­ona Matthew shoots 68 to move to joint sec­ond but it’s . . .

The Herald - Herald Sport - - Ricoh Women’s British Open - DOUGLAS LOWE [email protected]­herald.co.uk

CA­TRI­ONA MAT THEW raised Scot­tish hopes with a five-un­der-par 68 over the Old Course that moved her into con­tention at the half­way stage of the Ri­coh Women’s Bri­tish Open.

Matthew, the 37-year-old who is known as Beany, was joint sec­ond place on a five­un­der ag­gre­gate of 141, one be­hind the leader, Lorena Ochoa of Mex­ico. That put her in line to be­come the first Scot to win any women’s ma­jor cham­pi­onship.

It was her de­clared in­ten­tion to avoid the 112 pe­nal bunkers on the old links, and she achieved that yes­ter­day in the first bo­gey-free round she can re­mem­ber play­ing over a course on which she won the St Rule Tro­phy twice in her ama­teur days in 1993 and 1994.

“I’m de­lighted,” said the North Ber­wick player who con­cen­trates on the LPGA Tour in the US, “and hope­fully I’ll be in­spired over the week­end by the kind of home sup­port that I en­joyed to­day and don’t have in the States.”

This is the first women’s pro­fes­sional tour­na­ment to be staged at the home of golf where Matthew is al­ready well known, hav- ing re­ceived an hon­orary mem­ber­ship of the lo­cal St Rule club when she came to St An­drews to prac­tise three weeks ago.

Colin Mont­gomerie was the last Scot to con­tend in a ma­jor cham­pion-

ship at St An­drews, the men’s Open of 2005, but the di­chotomy be­tween men’s and women’s games is such that Matthew has, cu­ri­ously, never met him.

Al­though she has won twice in the United States and is Bri­tain’s high­est-placed player in the world-rank­ings at No.34, this is a high-qual­ity field con­tain­ing 19 of the world’s top 20. She is there­fore ex­ceed­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, even though she has shown good form in the ma­jors this sea­son, par­tic­u­larly the Kraft Nabisco cham­pi­onship where she was run­ner-up.

Matthew, who has hus­band Graeme on the bag, ac­counts for this im­proved form partly by the ar­rival of baby Katie last De­cem­ber. “Golf is not such an im­por­tant mat­ter which helps me re­lax a lit­tle bit more,” she said. “I have to man­age my time bet­ter and make prac­tice more pro­duc­tive.”

Coached for the last year- and-a-half by David Whe­lan, who in­cludes Paula Creamer among his clien­tele, Matthew’s short game has im­proved.

Out in the af­ter­noon yes­ter­day on a bright and breezy day that at­tracted a crowd of 13,950, she was pleas­antly sur­prised to find that the wind was not so strong as fore­cast and, af­ter miss­ing an eight-foot birdie putt at the first, she holed from six feet at the sec­ond.

She went two un­der at the sixth af­ter a wedge approach to eight feet then luck­ily missed the fair­way bunker at the 353yard next where her tee shot took a big bounce for­ward and she got down in two putts.

On the in­ward nine, she had a 2 at the short 11th and made an al­most-rou­tine birdie 4 at the 17th. “My lag putting has been good from around 40 feet, which you need to do here,” she said, “and maybe a lit­tle bit of ex­pe­ri­ence helps as well.”

Ochoa, the 25-year-old world No.1, did not man­age a re­peat of the fire­works of her open­ing 67 but, ex­cept for three-putting the last, she was en­cour­aged at con­sol­i­dat­ing it with a 73. “Th­ese were tough con­di­tions. The wind kept chang­ing,” she said. “I’m just glad I still have the lead.”

Matthewwas tied for sec­ond with the 34-year-old Amer­i­can Wendy Ward, a four-time LPGA Tour win­ner who had a 70 that, like Ochoa, in­cluded a three-putt at the last for bo­gey.

Ward will play with Ochoa in the fi­nal group out to­day while Matthew’s re­ward will be to ac­com­pany An­nika Soren­stam, the 10-time ma­jor­win­ner who moved up the leader­board with an early-morn­ing 71.

Af­ter rounds last­ing up to six-and-a-half hours on Thurs­day, of­fi­cials took steps to speed up play yes­ter­day with call-on pro­ce­dures at the fifth and 11th and a “no-tol­er­ance” approach to snail-like play that re­sulted in a to­tal of 18 play­ers be­ing put on the clock, al­though no penal­ties were ap­plied.

Michelle Wie took a pos­i­tive from im­proved driv­ing yes­ter­day but she was un­able to cap­i­talise on it in a dis­mal 80 that sent her pack­ing. “It’s like a puzzle. I’m just get­ting it one bit at a time,” said the 17-yearold, who was in good com­pany.

Oth­ers who missed out were four-time ma­jor win­ner Laura Davies (her first missed cut this year); Korea’s Jeong Jang, the 2005 win­ner; He­len Al­freds­son, Europe’s Sol­heim Cup cap­tain; and the Kraft Nabisco cham­pion Morgan Pres­sel.

Pic­ture: David Moir/Reuters

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