Catriona Matthew fed off the memory of her Solheim Cup triumph at Killeen Castle to open up a one stroke lead after the first round of the Ladies Irish Open supported by Fáilte Ireland.
The 42-year-old Scot fired a five under par 67 in fine but windy conditions to end the day a stroke ahead of Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg.
The 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open champion shot to the top of the leader board thanks to seven birdies in her last eight holes.
“It was very strange, actually,” said Matthew, the World No.27. “I played very steadily on the front nine and then just a silly three-putt on 18 for a bogey and I was out in one over. I made a good par on the first and then had seven birdies on the next eight holes and one bogey so kind of a strange nine but I’ll take it. It’s always nice when you see the putts dropping in.”
Matthew hit it close on holes two, three and four; made a three-putt bogey on five and then made three good birdies on the last three holes.
She admitted that she took inspiration from being back at the scene of one of the biggest highlights of her career last September, when she played a key role in Europe’s Solheim Cup victory, going undefeated with a memorable 6 and 5 win over Paula Creamer in the opening singles.
Matthew tied for sixth at the Ladies Irish Open at the same venue in 2011 and she commented: “It’s playing a little longer than it did in the Irish Open but probably similar to how it did in The Solheim, because it was wetter later in the year then. It’s similar to how it played then.”
While Matthew is an eight-time tournament champion, Lindberg is targeting her first victory as a professional. The Swedish 26-year-old knocked in six birdies and two bogeys to sign for a four under par 68 after playing in cooler, but calmer conditions in the morning.
Lindberg said: “I was very steady and didn’t miss many fairways. I think I missed number one and then hit every fairway. My irons were good. I gave myself chances with short birdie putts and my putting was good too.”
England’s Felicity Johnson posted a 69 to sit two shots off the pace. The 25-year-old two-time tournament winner, who claimed her most recent victory at the 2011 Lacoste Ladies Open de France, was in an upbeat mood and said: “It was pretty boring out there today. Four birdies and a bogey, which on a day like today, I’m pretty pleased with. It was tough out there because the wind was kind of from a consistent place but it was difficult to judge sometimes.”
A group of five players are a stroke further back on two under including the four-time Irish Open champion and Solheim Cup player Sophie Gustafson.
She is joined by fellow Swede Caroline Westrup, England’s Elizabeth Bennett, Australian Rachel Bailey and Anja Monke of Germany.
Scotland’s Carly Booth and English amateur Charley Hull ended a stroke further back on one under par, with the defending champion Suzann Pettersen of Norway in a group on 72.
Pettersen, another of Europe’s stars at Killeen Castle in September, said: “I kept looking for my team mates out there. They weren’t there. It was a bit weird when I finished on nine and to walk from there to the tenth because a year ago it was just packed and everyone was there cheering you on, giving you a high five.”
Of the four other Solheim Cup players in the field, English pair Laura Davies and Karen Stupples both opened with rounds of 74, while Melissa Reid retired after eight holes due to personal reasons.
Danielle McVeigh was the best of the Irish competitors on 76, while Tara Delaney had a 77. Rebecca Codd and Leona Maguire ended in a group on 80 while Lisa Maguire withdrew citing an injury.
Ladies Irish Open supported by Fáilte Ireland
3-5 August, 2012
Killeen Castle, Dunsany, County Meath, Ireland
Scores at the end of round 1:
67 - Catriona Matthew (SCO)
68 - Pernilla Lindberg (SWE)
69 - Felicity Johnson (ENG)
70 - Sophie Gustafson (SWE) , Rachel Bailey (AUS) , Anja Monke (DEU) , Elizabeth Bennett (ENG) , Caroline Westrup (SWE)
71 - Charley Hull (ENG) , Carly Booth (SCO)
72 - Kylie Walker (SCO) , Ursula Wikstrom (FIN) , Joanna Klatten (FRA) , Giulia Sergas (ITA) , Suzann Pettersen (NOR)
73 - Marianne Skarpnord (NOR) , Jennie Lee (USA) , Gwladys Nocera (FRA) , Lucy Williams (ENG) , Sophie Giquel-bettan (FRA) , Dewi Claire Schreefel (NLD) , Nikki Garrett (AUS) , Jodi Ewart (ENG) , Alison Walshe (USA) , Stefania Croce (ITA)
74 - Margherita Rigon (ITA) , Esther Choe (USA) , Alison Whitaker (AUS) , Hannah Burke (ENG) , Connie Chen (ZAF) , Caroline Afonso (FRA) , Beth Allen (USA) , Julieta Granada (PAR) , Marieke Nivard (NLD) , Carlota Ciganda (ESP) , Karen Stupples (ENG) , Laura Davies (ENG) , Julie Greciet (FRA) , Meaghan Francella (USA) , Lindsey Wright (AUS) , Miriam Nagl (DEU) , Caroline Masson (DEU)
75 - Marjet Van Der Graaff (NLD) , Virginie Lagoutte-clement (FRA) , Amelia Lewis (USA) , Linda Wessberg (SWE) , Carin Koch (SWE) , Jade Schaeffer (FRA) , Line Vedel (DNK) , Stacey Keating (AUS) , Liebelei Lawrence (LUX) , Lee-Anne Pace (ZAF) , Steffi Kirchmayr (DEU) , Anais Maggetti (CHE) , Elin Emanuelsson (SWE) , Diana Luna (ITA)
76 - Danielle Mcveigh (IRL) , Mireia Prat (ESP) , Holly Aitchison (ENG) , Celine Palomar (FRA) , Klara Spilkova (CZE) , Sahra Hassan (WAL) , Clare Queen (SCO)
77 - Sharmila Nicollet (IND) , Louise Larsson (SWE) , Tara Delaney (IRL) , Caroline Rominger (CHE) , Eleanor Givens (ENG) , Trish Johnson (ENG) , Florentyna Parker (ENG) , Alexandra Vilatte (FRA) , Becky Morgan (WAL) , Lucie Andre (FRA) , Georgina Simpson (ENG) , Danielle Montgomery (ENG) , Stacy Lee Bregman (ZAF) , Stefanie Michl (AUT)
78 - Laurette Maritz (ZAF) , Malene Jorgensen (DNK) , Lisa Holm Sorensen (DNK) , Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA) , Rebecca Hudson (ENG) , Minea Blomqvist (FIN) , Becky Brewerton (WAL) , Caroline Martens (NOR) , Rebecca Artis (AUS) , Allison Micheletti (USA) , Ashleigh Simon (ZAF) , Vikki Laing (SCO) , Lynnette Brooky (NZL) , Rachel Jennings (ENG)
79 - Karen Lunn (AUS) , Sophie Sandolo (ITA) , Cassandra Kirkland (FRA) , Charlotte Ellis (ENG)
80 - Julie Maisongrosse (FRA) , Kiran Matharu (ENG) , Helen Alfredsson (SWE) , Leona Maguire (IRL) , Lydia Hall (WAL) , Rebecca Codd (IRL) , Laura Cabanillas (ESP) , Chrisje De Vries (NLD) , Emma Cabrera-bello (ESP) , Titiya Plucksataporn (THA) , Zuzana Kamasova (SVK) , Stephanie Na (AUS)
81 - Henrietta Zuel (ENG) , Mikaela Parmlid (SWE) , Frances Bondad (AUS) , Sophie Walker (ENG) , Maria Beautell (ESP)
82 - Nicole Gergely (AUT) , Bree Arthur (AUS) , Jenni Kuosa (FIN) , Kyra Van Leeuwen (NLD)
83 - Kym Larratt (ENG) , Tania Elosegui (ESP) , Tandi Cuningham (ZAF) , Veronica Zorzi (ITA) , Jessica Yadloczky (USA)
84 - Sarah Kemp (AUS)
85 - Elisabeth Esterl (DEU)
88 - Yu Yang Zhang (CHN)
WD - Lisa Maguire (IRL)
RTD - Melissa Reid (ENG)