The enforced break in the golfing calendar may have played a part in helping Dani Holmqvist mount a strong challenge at the AIG Women’s Open.
Holmqvist followed up her opening-day 71 with a one-under 70 on Friday to claim the clubhouse lead. As winds continued to make life difficult for the afternoon starters, the Swede ended the day as the only player in red figures.
A place in Saturday’s final group is set to be a hugely exciting experience for a player who has had to be patient in recovering from a back injury she sustained in a golf cart crash in 2018.
Holmqvist naturally missed playing competitively when the 2020 season was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the unexpected time off could well have been to her benefit.
“I think we are all itching to get back out there playing. Especially in front of all the fans, too, which is unfortunate that we can't right now,” said Holmqvist.
“But, for me, it was good personally with the injury just to give me some time off, not to travel so much, and just be home and doing rehab a little bit more. Just getting stronger so I can be out here to perform again.
“I had a disc, which is leaking, and also a really inflamed facet joint. So I injected that many times, and then it's just been rehab and ice and kind of rest. You know how it is with backs, it's a long process and very tedious. It's an everyday thing. Just hopefully it's getting better and better.”
Holmqvist may not be at full fitness, but you would not have guessed as she dealt magnificently with the test provided by more gusting winds at Troon.
“Conditions were really tough,” she added. “I felt like it was brutal out there, but I’m happy to get in under par. We had a lot of crosswinds and the front nine played pretty long.”
On the prospect of playing in the final group on Saturday, she continued: “That would be a really cool experience, first of all, but I think I would just need to stick to my game plan. You can’t really do more on this course and with these conditions. They have been so tough these two days.
“It’s kind of hard to look at what anyone else is doing. I’ve just got to focus on my own thing and try to make the best out of it.”
Input from former PGA Tour star Brad Faxon has aided Holmqvist since she made her return to action.
“I’ve known Brad through some mutual friends. We all live in Jupiter,” explained Holmqvist. “We’ve been working quite a bit on the course together. Just on mind-set and short game too.
“He’s a great coach but he's also a great friend to have in Jupiter. It’s new over this break and, yeah, I've seen him quite a bit. I met him at dinners before with mutual friends, but this is the first time we started actually working together.”
Having put herself in a strong position, Holmqvist will now look to emulate compatriot Henrik Stenson, who won The 145th Open at Royal Troon in 2016.
“I just remember watching the last 18 holes there with Phil and Henrik playing, and I think that was probably one of the best showdowns I've ever seen in major championship golf,” said Holmqvist.
She may yet deliver a similarly brilliant finale herself on the South Ayrshire coast.