Korda and home hope Hall lead the way at Women's Open

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Georgia Hall of England plays her second shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the AIG Women's Open at Carnoustie
Georgia Hall of England plays her second shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the AIG Women's Open at Carnoustie

By Ben Parsons at Carnoustie

Nelly Korda and Georgia Hall are both in contention at the AIG Women’s Open after impressive first rounds at Carnoustie.

World number one Korda shares the lead on five-under with Korean star Si Yeung Kim and Swede Madelene Salstrom.

The American fired eight birdies in an opening 67, capitalising on serene morning conditions on the Argus coast. 

Korda is unfamiliar with links golf but adapted with aggressive approach play as her sensational 2021 form continued. 

“I played well and took advantage of the calmer day,” the Olympic gold medallist said.

“It was definitely chillier in the morning. I'm not used to that coming from Tokyo. But I think I just took advantage of all my opportunities and played some solid golf.”

Korda’s playing partner Charley Hull struggled in an opening round 77, but fellow Brit Hall thrived in front of the home crowd.

The 2018 champion Hall alive after a slow start, shooting six birdies in 12 closing holes, including a superb two on the tricky par-3 16th. 

The links specialist rose to stardom with victory at Royal Lytham three years ago and is relishing another challenge at her favourite tournament.

“It's only the first round, but I've got myself in a good position and trying to take advantage of really still weather out there,” Hall said. “I think today was probably the easiest it's going to play.

“My irons were pretty good, on the back nine especially. It took me a while to get going on the first five or six holes.

“I had some really important par putts, three, four-footers that kind of kept me in it, and then a great shot on 16 to get another birdie."

Up to 8,000 spectators were permitted on the famous links on Thursday after no crowds were allowed during the Covid-stricken tournament at Royal Troon last year.

“It's so nice to be playing at home in front of home crowds cheering me on,” said Hall

“And obviously links golf, I rarely get to play that nowadays. It's just a lot of happiness when I'm here."

Hall’s playing partner Louise Duncan enjoyed a magical debut round in her first major, matching her four-under par score with a fantastic 68 that included an eagle on the par-5 14th.

The Amateur champion and home favourite loved playing alongside accomplished star Hall, saying: “She made me feel dead comfortable and she was lovely.  

“I really enjoyed playing with her and can't wait to get back out.”

Duncan, 21 was so fraught with emotion on the first tee that she was only primarily focused on making contact with her first shot.

“I'm not worried about tomorrow now,” she joked.

“Emotions were very nervous with a wee bit of excitement in there. And then when it started to go really well the nerves came back, heart rate went up.

“But overall, I really enjoyed it, and I'm already looking forward to the second round.”

Duncan and Hall are joined on four-under by American Andrea Lee and US Open winner Yuka Saso. 

Lexi Thompson, an 11-time LPGA Tour winner, described the Carnoustie layout as ‘tough but fair’ but is also in the mix after a three-under par 69.

Thompson has local expert Paul Drummond on the bag this week, after caddie Jack Fulghum suffered from heat exhaustion in extreme conditions at the Tokyo Games.

Seven-time major winner Inbee Park is a shot further back after an opening 70. Meanwhile, last year’s unlikely champion Sophia Popov carded an even-par 72 after a strong finish. 

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