Gal slips in under the radar

Sandra Gal came through right at the death last night to snatch the first round lead at the Ricoh Women’s British Open

Germany’s Sandra Gal slipped through under the radar and right at the death last night to snatch the first round lead at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
It was already 9.11pm at a grey and windy Royal Lytham on Thursday and only two spectators remained in the grandstands at the 18th green when Gal,
a 24-year-old from Dusseldorf, played a brilliant chip to within three feet of the final flag and holed for a three-under-par 69.
She was the first player in 15 hours to break 70 and it gave Gal, 69th in the world, a one-stroke lead over American Angela Stanford and Korean Song-hee Kim.
“There were a few gutsy people out there, so that was nice,” she said. “You don’t win majors in the first round but it’s definitely always nice to be on top.”
After a six-foot birdie putt on the 17th put her back in front, Gal missed the last green and finished in heavy rough. But her flop shot over the bunker worked out like a dream.
“I just tried to get it up in the air as high as I could,” she explained.
Gal, who gained an LPGA card in America while still an amateur, is not currently a member of the European Tour and therefore ineligible for next month’s Solheim Cup, but that could change if she wins on Sunday.
Stanford, meanwhile, may have found the secret to playing major championship golf – visit the Sistine Chapel and arrive only the day before.
On a course described as “hellatious and brutal” by 2005 winner Karen Stupples after she took 82 – still nine better than last season’s European Tour number one Gwladys Nocera – the 31-year-old produced the outstanding score of the morning.
Stanford’s two previous trips to the famous Lancashire links, scene of two of Seve Ballesteros’ three Open victories, had seen her slump to rounds of 85 and 80.
The world number seven, runner-up in the 2003 US Open, had also missed the cut in the championship on four of her last five visits, so she came up with a different plan.
“I thought I’m going to take my mind off this, all the negative feelings I have – and I’ve always wanted to see Rome,” she said.
“I was mentally in a better state than if I’d been here the whole week.
“Of course if you’re standing in the Sistine Chapel you’re saying a few prayers. It’s pretty cool as a Christian to reflect on that.
“We saw the Catacombs and that was kind of eerie to think of what it would have been to risk your life for that.”
Stanford, whose mother is currently undergoing breast cancer treatment, sank a 66-foot eagle putt on the long seventh and after two late bogeys finished on a high note with a 30-foot birdie putt.
Compatriot Michelle Wie held a share of top spot when she stood two under after seven but, with most of the inward half playing into the wind, the 19-year-old had to settle for a one-over 73.
World number one Lorena Ochoa mixed four birdies with five bogeys and a double for 75, Korea’s defending champion Jiyai Shin was two worse than that, but there were some real nightmares.
Nocera, leading the points table for next month’s Solheim Cup, had two eights on her scorecard and played the last 12 holes in 17 over par for a 91.
Korean Soo-yung Kang finished with an octuple-bogey 12 on the 386-yard 18th for an 87. She was then listed as disqualified for not signing her card, although it was later changed to a more forgiving “no return”.
The 12 came when she drove into sand, pulled her third, chipped into a bunker, hit herself with her next shot to incur a two-stroke penalty, went into another bunker, had to come out sideways and three-putted.
A watching marshal said Kang, known as the “Fashion Model of the Fairways” for her physique and clothing, was in tears as early as her fourth shot.
Scot Catriona Matthew, currently in the last qualifying position for the Solheim Cup, matched Stanford’s eagle on the seventh and was one under with two to play but double-bogeyed the 419-yard 17th and then dropped another shot for 74, the same as playing partner Paula Creamer.
Swede Maria Hjorth and Kim were in the very next group and, while 21-year-old Kim birdied to go joint top, Hjorth double-bogeyed to fall out of the lead.
Laura Davies also took six on the last and the 45-year-old was so disappointed she could hardly bring herself to talk after signing for a 79.
(USA unless stated, par 72):

69 Sandra Gal (Ger)
70 Angela Stanford (USA), Song-hee Kim (Kor)
71 Yuko Mitsuka (Jpn), Hee-young Park (Kor)
72 Maria Hjorth (Swe)
73 Christina Kim (USA), Kyeong Bae (Kor), Vikki Laing, Michelle Wie (USA)
74 Ursula Wikstrom (Fin), Shinobu Moromizato (Jpn), Kristy McPherson (USA), Sophie Gustafson (Swe), Vicky Hurst (USA), Meena Lee (Kor), Samantha Head, Jane Park (USA), Momoko Ueda (Jpn), Paula Creamer (USA), Catriona Matthew, Yani Tseng (Tai), Giulia Sergas (Ita), Michele Redman (USA)
75 Lee-Anne Pace (Rsa), Stacy Prammanasudh (USA), Lorena Ochoa (Mex), Ai Miyazato (Jpn), Katherine Hull (Aus), Carmen Alonso (Spa), Emma Zackrisson (Swe), Sarah Lee (Kor), Martina Eberl (Ger), Karin Sjodin (Swe), Teresa Lu (Tai), Katie Futcher (USA), Anne-Lise Caudal (Fra)
76 Inbee Park (Kor), Tania Elosegui (Spa), Mika Miyazato (Jpn), Cristie Kerr (USA), Laura Diaz (USA), Eun Hee Ji (Kor), Marianne Skarpnord (Nor), Il Mi Chung (Kor), Allison Hanna-Williams (USA), Stacy Bregman (Rsa), Suzann Pettersen (Nor), MJ Hur (Kor), Se Ri Pak (Kor), Jin Joo Hong (Kor)
77 Jiyai Shin (Kor), Brittany Lincicome (USA), Morgan Pressel (USA), Louise Stahle (Swe), Karine Icher (Fra), Shiho Ohyama (Jpn), Karrie Webb (Aus), Janice Moodie, Becky Brewerton, Hee-won Han (Kor), Jill McGill (USA), Irene Cho (USA), Reilley Rankin (USA)
78 Marta Prieto (Spa), Shi Hyun Ahn (Kor), Mi-jeong Jeon (Kor), Sophie Walker, Kris Tamulis (USA), Johanna Mundy, Juli Inkster (USA), Helen Alfredsson (Swe), Anna Nordqvist (Swe), Eunjung Yi (Kor), Young Kim (Kor)
79 Jade Schaeffer (Fra), Jeong Jang (Kor), Laura Davies, Ashleigh Simon (Rsa), (x) Caroline Hedwall (Swe), Stacy Lewis (USA), Sun-young Yoo (Kor), Natalie Gulbis (USA), Jimin Kang (Kor), Candie Kung (Tai), Federica Piovano (Ita), Christel Boeljon (Ned)
80 Shanshan Feng (Chi), Haeji Kang (Kor), Johanna Westerberg (Swe), (x) Rachel Jennings, Florentyna Parker, Beatriz Recari (Spa), Pat Hurst (USA), Stefanie Michl (Aut), Moira Dunn (Aus), Iben Tinning (Den), Yuri Fudoh (Jpn), Becky Morgan, Nicole Castrale (USA), Lindsey Wright (Aus), Na Yeon Choi (Kor), Heather Young (USA), Jinyoung Pak (Kor), Sarah Kemp (Aus)
81 Yuko Saito (Jpn), In-kyung Kim (Kor), Melissa Reid, (x) Carlota Ciganda (Spa), Wendy Ward (USA), Bettina Hauert (Ger), Brittany Lang (USA), Krystle Caithness, Jee Young Lee (Kor), Henrietta Zuel, Georgina Simpson
82 Karen Stupples, Karen Lunn (Aus), Anna Rawson (Aus), Seon Hwa Lee (Kor), Marjet van der Graaff (Ned), Ji Young Oh (USA)
83 Christine Hallstrom (Swe), (x) Azahara Munoz (Spa), Minea Blomqvist (Fin), Breanne Loucks, (x) Rebecca Flood (Aus), Diana Luna (Ita), Paula Marti (Spa), Amy Yang (Kor),