OCHOA BY A NOSE
Catriona Matthew shoots 68 to move to joint second but it’s . . .
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