By Tony Jimenez
WOBURN, England (Reuters) – Evergreen Catriona Matthew, boosted by having husband Graham back on her bag after a spell looking after their two young children, launched a determined title charge at the Ricoh Women’s British Open on Friday.
The 46-year-old Scot galloped through the field with a best-of-the-day 65 and finished the second round of the fourth women’s major of the year within striking distance of the pacesetters.
South Korean Lee Mi-rim (71) led the way on 11-under 133, one ahead of Shanshan Feng (68) of China and Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn (69).
It was 2009 British Open champion Matthew, though, who took most of the plaudits after packing seven birdies into a flawless round to share fourth spot with South Korean Jang Ha-na (67).
“Graham doesn’t get to come out often now… so it’s just great having him here,” Matthew told reporters.
“He caddied for 16, 17 years so we are very used to the way each of us react on the course.”
Matthew is also looking forward to having her husband, who started carrying her bag again at last week’s Scottish Open, for company when she partners Charley Hull in the British women’s golf team at next month’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“Luckily we have some very helpful grandparents so it will be great to have Graham out there,” she said.
“We don’t fly down until the 12th, couldn’t be away that long from the children, but we are staying in the Olympic Village just to get a sense of the whole thing.”
Matthew’s game from tee to green was impeccable, shown by the fact she hit all 18 greens in regulation, and the Solheim Cup veteran described her effort as “one of the best rounds I’ve played.
“I gave myself a lot of chances and the putts dropped today,” she added. “I just played really well.”
Hull also flew the flag for Britain on Friday, the Woburn member stringing together five birdies in an inspired six-hole run around the turn as she returned a 70 for 139, five under.
The 20-year-old Englishwoman has eclipsed playing partner Lydia Ko over the opening 36 holes but the South Korean-born New Zealander thoroughly enjoyed the experience of appearing in front of a sizeable crowd.
“For this many people to come out to watch, it’s great,” said the 19-year-old Ko after a 70 gave her a level-par total of 144. “They love watching her here especially at a club she’s played at for a long time.
“For her to play good golf and for there to be a lot of people, I think it’s double the fun.”
Mo Martin (68) was in sixth place on 136, one ahead of fellow American Stacy Lewis (70), while world number two Brooke Henderson of Canada was down the field on 143 after a 72.
Among the casualties of the halfway cut were American trio Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)