Birkdale turns ornery, and sends Michelle Wie home early from the Women's British Open
By Ron Sirak
SOUTHPORT, England -- How do you tell a great golf course that is set up properly for a major championship? One way is that it severely punishes poor play and adequately rewards those who are hitting the ball well.
Pinehurst No. 2 did that when it beat up most of two fields in the twin U.S. Opens but allowed Martin Kaymer then Michelle Wie and Stacy Lewis low scores when their shot-making deserved it.
And by Day 2 of the Ricoh Women's British Open it appeared Royal Birkdale was cut in the same mold.
There were some dreadfully high scores Friday, including an 83 by 2009 champion Catriona Matthew, 79 by three-time Women's British winner Karrie Webb and first-round leader Ayako Uehara, along with a 78 from Wie that ended her chances of winning back-to-back majors.
But there were also a handful of brilliant rounds, including a 67 by Beatriz Recari that put her at three-under 141 going to the weekend, tying her with 2011 U.S. Women's Open winner So Yeon Ryu, who shot a 70, for second after 36 holes.
The pair are three strokes back of Mo Martin, who shot a second-straight 69, birdieing two of her last four holes, to finish at six-under 138 and take the halfway lead.
"It's so important to put it in the fairway because that gave me the confidence to be more aggressive and be able to chase a couple of pins and chase some birdies," Recari (shown) said after hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens.
Sun-ju Ahn also shot a 67 and was in at two-under-par 142 after two rounds.
There was an impressive act of resiliency Friday as Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Lexi Thompson opened with a 10 on No. 1, hitting two balls out of bounds, but played the next 17 holes one under for a 77 to make the cut.
Wie, who has been playing remarkably consistent golf in 2014, had her two highest rounds of the year, going 75-78 to miss the cut. She had fought back from an outgoing 39 but double bogeyed No. 16 and bogeyed No. 17 to miss the weekend by two strokes.
"It's a tough golf course and I just didn't it hit very well or putt very well," Wie said. "It was one of those weeks were if I had been a little bit further left or a little bit further right, I'd have been OK."
Still, the way she has been playing -- two victories, a ton of ton-10s and that U.S. Women's Open win -- Wie walked away with her head held high. "You are going to make bogeys on a course like this, but I just didn't make birdies," she said. "I'll learn from this."
Lewis had an up-and-down round en route to a 74 that left her one over par going to the weekend, still very much in the hunt as Americans try to win the first three LPGA majors of the year for the first time since 1999.
Solid rounds of even-par 72 by Jessica Korda, Inbee Park and Azahara Munoz left them at even-par 144. Korda got things together after starting her round with a double bogey and a bogey, the same way she opened her round on Thursday.
"If I can get those first two holes down, then I don't have to be six over par on them in two days it would be nice," Korda said.
The Ricoh won't have the star power of Wie on the weekend, but it does have the star power of a great golf course and enough supporting actors to make for a compelling weekend.
And there really hasn't been any weather to speak of yet. That could be the added bit of drama the weekend has in store for this Women's British Open.