BRITONS Laura Davies, Henrietta Zuel and Lydia Hall held a three-way share of the lead on six under par 66 after the first round of the ISPS Handa Ladies British Masters.
The trio emerged from a crowded leader board late on Thursday after a beautiful but breezy day at Buckinghamshire Golf Club in Denham to lead by a stroke over South African Stacy Lee Bregman and Australian Stacey Keating.
Frenchwoman Joanna Klatten, Beth Allen of the United States, South African Lee-Anne Pace and Swede Carin Koch were a stroke further behind.
Despite walking around the course in pain with an injured Achilles tendon, 79-time tournament champion Davies showed why she is still England’s leading lady by blending seven birdies with just one dropped shot around the attractive parkland layout, just 20 minutes from London.
The four-time major champion, who didn’t play a practice round this week, commented: “It’s a lovely golf course; I knew I liked it. Seven birdies, one bogey: a very satisfactory day.”
Davies, from nearby Surrey, has just returned from the United States, where she tied for 31st at the Toledo Classic, a week after finishing third in Ireland.
“I played very well in Toledo without making any putts and the today I played well, hit 17 greens and putted well, so that’s the way you shoot 66s,” she added. “You don’t do that unless you putt well and I did putt well today.”
England’s Zuel, from Bath, also mixed seven birdies with one bogey and was delighted to be in the hunt for her maiden Ladies European Tour title.
She said: “I love these greens. I think on these greens, if you roll it on a line it will stay there so if you are reading them right then it is pretty score-able. It was just pretty solid really. I started rolling a few putts in, wasn’t hitting it that great at the start and then adrenaline, a bit of good scoring, just brought it all together and it progressed from there.”
Welshwoman Hall, from Bridgend, also carded seven birdies and one bogey and credited her new caddie, Lee Griffiths, for a confident performance.
“These greens are so big, you just have to have the right club in your hand and obviously Lee Griffiths, an experienced caddie, is working for me this week and that has been a huge help, putting the right club in my hand, then I can be aggressive and just trust that,” she said.
“The par fives: the greens are large, some are 46, 42, deep, so you’ve got to be hitting them pretty close to give yourself chances. Each par five for me is reachable with a rescue and 17, the par four: I can drive that hole as well, so it’s taking advantage of the holes where you can be aggressive and then being disciplined on the holes where you can be happy with par.”
While Pace and Koch set the early target at four under, England’s Melissa Reid, Trish Johnson and Kiran Matharu were in a group on three under, along with South Africans Tandi Cuningham and Ashleigh Simon, Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera and Adriana Zwanck from Spain.
Those on two under include the talented 16-year-old English amateur Charley Hull, with current European order of merit leader Carly Booth of Scotland a shot back on one under.
The tournament continues on Friday and will conclude with Saturday’s final round.