Mel Reid got off to a fast start with birdies on the first two holes of the U.S. Women’s Open on Thursday and was the early clubhouse leader after a 4-under 67 on the notoriously tough Lake Course at the Olympic Club.
The English player Reid started at the 10th hole and hit her first two approach shots within 10 feet for birdies on the par 4s. She added birdies on Nos. 15 and 16, another on her second-to-last hole and had only one bogey all round.
“I didn’t think that score was out there honestly,” she said. “I had a pretty good game plan. It’s probably the best I’ve had for a tournament. We had a game plan and stuck to it. If you’re in trouble, just get it out, make bogey. I think the key here is to not take many risks the first two, three days, and I didn’t do that.”
Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., is among four Canadians in the field. Victoriaville, Que., native Noémie Paré, Rebecca Lee-Bentham of Scarborough, Ont., and Megan Osland of Kelowna, B.C., make up the remaining contingent.
Of the 78 players who teed off in the morning, only eight shot under par. Angel Yin was a stroke off the lead, Yuka Saso shot 69, and top-ranked Jin Young Ko was at 70 with Marina Alex, Austin Ernst, Jennifer Kupcho and Jeongeun Lee6.
Reid, who won her first LPGA Tour title last October to go with her six career wins on the European Tour, has had little career success at the U.S. Women’s Open. She missed the cut four of her previous five times at this tournament and finished tied for 50th in her other appearance in 2012.
Reid said she was helped by a couple of long conversations with two-time men’s U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka that she carried over into the round.
This marked the first time the women came to the Lake Course overlooking the Pacific Ocean for a major. But this venue has a rich history for the men, hosting five U.S. Opens and three U.S. Amateurs among other events.
The course that played at 6,361 yards Thursday has traditionally played as one of the tougher ones despite having no water hazards and only one fairway bunker. Only four men broke par at the five U.S. Opens here, including none the past two times with Lee Janzen winning at even par in 1998 and Webb Simpson a 1 over in 2012.
“Level par should be winning this thing, in my opinion, or close to level par. I love how tough it is,” Reid said. “I think it makes you think, makes you create a strategy. You can’t bomb it everywhere. You’ve really got to think where your misses are. This is exactly how a U.S. Open should be. This is an unbelievable golf course. As soon as I rocked up here I thought, this is the kind of golf courses we want to play.”
While Reid used a fast start to get to the top of the leaderboard, Yin finished strong by making eagle on the par-5 17th and birdie on the par-4 18th to get within one shot of the lead. The American’s 60-foot putt on 17 helped overcome back-to-back bogeys on the front nine.
“I teed off so early and I was so cold, I was kind of falling asleep. The front nine, I was like, gosh, `I’m so tired. Now I’m hungry,”‘ she said. “Didn’t hit many fairways on the front nine, so I think that showed on the scorecard. I think just hitting the fairways this week is essential to having a good round. I don’t think distance will help that much because the rough is so long. You’re going to break your wrist if you hit it all at a time.”