Amy Olson shot a stunning four-under-par 67 in brutally difficult conditions at Royal Troon, on what she called the ‘best ball-striking day’ of her life.
The 28-year-old, who recorded a top-10 finish last week at the Ladies Scottish Open, was one of only three players under par for the first round of the AIG Women's Open, and stood head and shoulders above the rest at the close of play on Thursday, three clear of Sophia Popov and Marina Alex.
“The conditions out there, honestly, were so tough. I'd say that was the best ball-striking day of my life,” Olson said in her post-round press conference.
“I kept the trajectory on every shot what I wanted. My start lines were really good, which was especially important those first nine holes going out into the wind, and my distance control was really good, which can be really tough to judge on a day like this.”
Olson, who grew up in windy conditions in North Dakota, followed a solitary bogey with five birdies in what may go down as one of the greatest rounds in modern AIG Women’s Open history.
Describing how she picked up a shot on the fiendish par-5 fourth, Olson said: “I hit driver, 3-wood, and I believe it was 3-hybrid into the green. I pulled it a little left, so I was left of the green, and I chipped in. Seriously, I hit my landing spot so well so it just rolled in. Obviously a piece of good fortune there.”
Olson then proceeded to punch an 8-iron stiff from 91 yards on the par-5 sixth hole to set up another birdie, showcasing the 55th-ranked player in the world’s control and feel, as well as the extreme weather conditions facing the players.
“I felt if I was going to try to hit a 9-iron it would have gotten up in the air too high and then it gets a little unpredictable, so I just hit a little chip 8-iron,” Olson explained.
“Obviously it worked out great. But it’s totally feel, picturing your trajectory and committing to it. That's probably the toughest thing in the wind is just committing to whatever you decide, and I did that really well.”
Olson duly parred the rest of the front nine before adding three birdies in a faultless inward half to complete her 67.
“I honestly have played so solid today,” she said. “If I wasn't on top of the leaderboard I wouldn't know what to do!
“It feels really good, obviously, whenever you're playing well. It's just a good position to be in and especially at a major.”
Olson tees off at 9:09am BST on Friday and is confident her game will stand up to Royal Troon’s gruelling test for a second straight day. Olson even believes there’s more in the tank.
“I feel like everything has just been on that brink of coming together,” said Olson. “Even today I didn’t putt as well as I would like too, I left a lot of shots out there, so I’m really confident in my game.”