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Leona Maguire makes strong start to Women’s British Open

Michelle Wie the woman to catch at the top of the leaderboard after an opening round of 64

Amateur Leona Maguire of Ireland tees off on the second hole during the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns Golf Link. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

Ireland’s Leona Maguire opened her British Open account with a three under par round of 69 at Kingsbarns, to sit five shots behind the lead at the end of round one. Michelle Wie sits atop the leaderboard going into Friday after a stunning round of 64 in which she played her back nine in just 30 shots.

Maguire – the 22-year-old world number one amateur – is looking to follow up her last impressive performance on links turf when she won the British Women’s Amateur Open in Wales in July. And it was that win which earned her an invite to this year’s British Open – an event she finished tied 25th in last year for her best professional finish.

After playing in last month’s US Open at Trump Bedminster she is quickly becoming accustomed to the professional game ahead of her turning pro when she graduates from Duke University next year.

And that familiarity with the top level showed on Thursday morning as she took advantage of the calm Kingsbarns conditions. Playing alongside Catriona Matthew and Anna Nordqvist she began with five solid pars in a row before pickling up her first shot of the day at the sixth.

But the real key to her round of three under par was taking care of the par fives. After parring the second, she birdied the remaining three long holes – the eighth, 11th and 15th.

Bogeys at the 14th and 16th set her back somewhat but the Cavan amateur rallied to birdie the last for a sub 70 round.

Meanwhile, fellow Irish amateur Olivia Mehaffey – of Royal County Down – will rue two dropped shots on her back nine after getting off to a fast start.

The Arizona State scholar birdied the third and the 11th to steadily climb up the leaderboard but stalled on her way in with bogeys at the 12th and 14th.

Four pars to finish meant she signed for a level par round of 72 and a tie for 70th ahead of her early start on Friday.

But it was American Wie who lit up Kinsbarns on the opening day as she racked up nine birdies in 16 holes for an impressive 64.

After starting with a bogey at the second she quickly clicked into gear to go out in 34 before coming home in just 30 shots, including three on the spin to finish.

She leads by a shot from South Korea’s In-Kyung Kim going into Friday.