ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The rain at St. Andrews arrived a day later than expected for the Women's British Open. Inbee Park could only hope it didn't wash away her chances of going for a record fourth straight major in one year.
While there were bursts of showers Friday morning, a soft turf and virtually no wind left the Old Course vulnerable to low scoring.
Kim Saiki twice made eagle on par 4s and went out in 30 to get her name atop the leaderboard at 9-under par at the turn. Right behind was Morgan Pressel, who shared the opening-round lead. Pressel had two birdies and no bogeys and was one shot behind, along with Ryann O'Toole. Suzann Pettersen had a 31 on the front nine and was at 7-under.
Park played in the afternoon, and by the look of it, she might have some catching up to do.
The 25-year-old South Korean expected a few thrills as she chased history at the home of golf. She just didn't expect such a wild ride in her opening round.
Park made five putts over 15 feet and six birdies over the first 12 holes. That was followed by a five-shot stretch that included three bad drives, two bogeys, and a double bogey from a pot bunker on No. 16 in which she purposely played toward the wrong flag on the double greens of the Old Course. She finished, of course, with a birdie.
"Felt like a roller coaster today," Park said.
And that was only the opening round. Park had a 3-under 69, a reasonable start considering everything at stake. No golfer, male or female, has ever won four majors in a single year. No one since the modern version of the Grand Slam was created in 1960 even had a chance at four in a row. The last golfer to win three straight majors in one season was Babe Zaharias in 1950, back when there were only three majors.
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.
Those who played early Thursday had reason to worry.
Lewis was on the 10th tee when she looked over at Park knocking in an 18-foot birdie putt, her fifth of the round. Castrale had not yet teed off when her husband saw a leaderboard with Park's name in a familiar position.
"It's amazing, the fact we all possibly can play with history," Castrale said. "It's amazing what she's done to this point, the composure she has. I don't know what she shot today, but I'm going to guess she'll be in the mix come Sunday."
The biggest surprise on the opening day was that Park said she felt a little nervous. Most players were starting to wonder if she felt anything at all. It sure didn't look that way when Park made six birdies in 10 holes.
What concerned her was a loss of concentration after one poor tee shot. She missed the fairway to the right on the 12th, 13th and 15th holes, twice having to scramble for par with her amazing putting stroke.
"I thought that I fixed my problems coming into this week. I was hitting it so good on the practice round and I didn't really miss any balls," Park said. "I thought I was really prepared, but those couple of bad shots really shocked me. I couldn't really concentrate on the greens when I hit those shots. I've learned my lesson. Good thing I've got my time to fix that today and tomorrow."