TROON, Scotland — As if Royal Troon isn’t playing hard enough for the world’s top female golfers this week, Dani Holmqvist is going around the wind-swept Scottish links carrying a nagging back injury from a cart crash in 2018.
It is not stopping the Swedish golfer, who leads the Women’s British Open after two rounds.
On another tough day when first-round leader Amy Olson shot an 81 — 14 strokes worse than Thursday — and stars like Lexi Thompson, Brooke Henderson and defending champion Hinako Shibuno missed the cut, Holmqvist shot a 1-under-par 70 in windy morning conditions to be the only player under par after 36 holes.
Her two-day total of 141 left Holmqvist a stroke ahead of Austin Ernst of the United States (70) and Sophia Popov of Germany (72). The rest of the 144-strong field were over par for a tournament being played without spectators and in an isolated environment on the southwest coast due to the pandemic.
Holmqvist, 32, has seemingly come out of nowhere, after having missed the cut in 13 of the 20 events she played since November 2018, when the golf cart in which she was riding at the Blue Bay event on the LPGA Tour lost control and slammed into a wall. The crash resulted in a badly inflamed facet joint in Holmqvist’s back that has required multiple injections and regular rehab.
“It’s a long process and very tedious,” she said. “It’s an everyday thing.”
Capturing a first major title — indeed, a first professional win at the senior level — will not be easy, and not just because of how difficult and long Troon is playing in winds that often reach 50-m.p.h.
Two strokes behind Holmqvist at 1-over-par are former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (71) and current No. 8-ranked Minjee Lee, who shot 69 to tie for the lowest round on Friday. A further shot back is No. 4-ranked Nelly Korda after her round of 72.
“We were like, ‘Are you scared over 1-footers, too, with this wind?’ Korda said, referring to a conversation she had with playing partner Georgia Hall, the 2018 champion. ”Because we were like shaking over it with wind and the gusts.”
After what she described as the best ball-striking round of her career to shoot 67 on Thursday, Olson came back to earth with a 10-over round that included six bogeys on her first 10 holes before double-bogeys at Nos. 11 and 14.
The American parred her way home to limit the damage and won’t feel out of it at 6-over.
It has proved to be a week to forget for Lexi Thompson, who shot 78 on Thursday and 75 on Friday to miss the cut by two strokes. She avoided the ignominy of being penalized for using the head of her club to push away long grass from her ball on the 16th hole of her first round.
“Following a discussion between chief referee David Rickman and the player prior to her signing her scorecard,” the R&A said in a statement Friday, “it was determined that, although the player had moved a growing natural object behind her ball, it had returned to its original position.
“Therefore, the lie of the ball was not improved and there was no breach of Rule 8.1.”