|J Snyder III||+|
A month of ladies golf
By Matt Cooper Last updated: 28th July 2010
Over the next month the Ladies European Tour is camped on British and Irish shores.
The four week period begins with the Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale in Southport - the highlight of the LET calendar year and boosted, as always, by the presence of the finest talent from the LPGA.
But in the following three weeks you can catch the LET in every corner of our islands.
The AIB Irish Open takes place in County Meath from 6th to 8th August, one week later the tour hops across the Irish Sea for the S4C Wales Championship of Europe in Conwy (12th-15th August), and the mini-swing concludes in East Lothian for the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open from 18th-20th August).
Here are a few reasons why you might want to contemplate attending over the next four weeks:
Four great courses: The mini-swing begins at Royal Birkdale (often rated one of the world's top ten course), continues to Killen Castle in Ireland (a Nicklaus course set to host the 2011 Solheim Cup), heads across the water to the wonderful Conwy in North Wales (a regular on hidden gem lists) and ends at Archerfield Links near Edinburgh (not only a great layout, but a club with enlightened rules).
Relaxed atmosphere lets you get close to the action: Unlike the bigger men's events you can relax and wander the fairways without feeling like every tiny move will be scowled at. That doesn't mean you can take advantage (put those cameras away) but you will soon notice the difference when players say hello to you as you wait to watch them on the tee (rather than fail to notice even when you clap a good shot).
Approachable players: Again, don't take advantage, but after a round you will appreciate that the girls know how to treat the fans - with a smile and a refreshing lack of suspicion.
International stars: The Ricoh Women's British Open has a stellar field jam packed with the big names (including Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, Jiyai Shin and Ai Miyazato) but you can see Christina Kim and Brittany Lincicome in Ireland, Helen Alfredsson and Maria Verchenova in Wales and Nikki Garret and Tania Elosegui in Scotland.
Raw talent: No-one watches Laura Davies and fails to be wowed. Trust me - the only player who comes close to making the galleries gasp is Alvaro Quiros. He does it with power; she does it with an insouciant approach that is as devastating as it is simple.
Exciting glimpses of the future: There are plenty of golfers playing in the next few weeks whose careers are on the up. Catch them now, before they are better known. Mel Reid already has some stature in the game, but look out too for Holland's Christel Boeljon, England's Flory Parker, Australia's Kristie Smith and Scotland's Krystle Caithness.
Free admission: Yes, in Wales and Scotland admission is free. And at both the Irish and British, prices are excellent value. Ireland is 25 Euros a day (10 for concessions), the British is £22 (£17 for concessions).
Now let's look at the event that kicks off all the action ...
THE RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN
What shape is the defending champion in? Last year Catriona Matthew famously arrived at Royal Lytham with just about the worst preparation imaginable - not only was she playing in only her second event since the birth of her second daughter 11 weeks previously, but one week before she had escaped a burning hotel. Ironically a more complete schedule on the LPGA this year is yet to reap a strokeplay top five finish however. And although she finished last week at Evian with a round of 67, she might need another child before she's competing again (after the birth of her first child she finished in the top three in each of her first three stars!).
Who has won at Royal Birkdale in previous years? In 1982 the last amateur to win this title - Spain's Marta Figueras-Dotti - prevailed and four years later Laura Davies won her first "major" (the British was not then acknowledged as a major). Birkdale didn't see another Women's Open until 2000 when the Swedish links specialist Sophie Gustafson topped the field. The British became a major in 2001 so the only genuine women's major winner on the course is Korea's Jeong Jang who thrashed the field in 2005.
Who will be leading the Asian challenge? The world's one and two: Korea's Jiyai Shin and Japan's Ai Miyazato. So far in 2010 Shin's consistency has been astonishing: in 14 starts she has two wins and has only twice failed to finish in the top five. Miyazato is less steady but has more wins: four of them in 15 starts.
How is Michelle Wie faring? The end of 2009 was a feel-good story for Wie. First she blossomed at the Solheim Cup: not only did she play supremely but she emerged as an engaging character and proved popular with her team-mates. Later in the season she finally claimed her first win and it appeared that 2010 would see her rise to the top of the game. If only golf were that simple. Instead 12 starts have seen her make the top five in a stroke play event just once. She has one year remaining of her degree and seems to have worked hard at her studies this year. Life seems to be one long rollercoaster for Michelle Wie so it is probably time for good stuff next. Let's hope so.
Is Paula Creamer fit for two majors? Creamer finally claimed a major in the US Open a few weeks ago but she had to fight the pain barrier to do so. Her injured thumb actually helped in one sense - it made her swing within herself, ideal for that tough challenge. But once that big effort was completed the pain was harder to bear at Evian, as she wrote on Twitter: "Played the last five holes in tears. My thumb does not like it when it rains and you have to take huge divots." The good news? Creamer is super tough and divots are less of a concern on links courses. The bad news? It is almost certainly going to rain. And be colder than Oakmont was.
Which other Americans should we watch out for? Cristie Kerr is now ranked third in the world, thrashed the field in the LPGA Championship and was fifth at Birkdale in 2005. Morgan Pressel found form last week in Evian but has a very poor record in this event (never better than 42nd in four attempts). Brittany Lincicome is an excellent major performer but maybe not in Britain. Christina Kim enjoyed Lytham and is buoyant on her return to British shores.
And what about the Europeans? Suzann Pettersen has never got to grips with this event (no top 20 in 8 tries) so the two players of most interest might be Anna Nordqvist and Azahara Munoz who both have extensive experience of links golf from their amateur days.
Can the locals mount a challenge? Karen Stupples has won this event before, led the year's first major with one round to go and played a lot of her early golf on the Kent links so she has to be considered. Mel Reid now has a professional win and will be desperate to compete at a higher level sooner rather than later. Krystle Caithness is unlikely to contend but might play well - she's played most of her golf in St Andrews and is still improving.
What about the amateurs? Always watch out for them in this event because in recent years we have had sneak glances of Michelle Wie, Mel Reid, Anna Nordqvist and Aza Munoz before they went on to win on tour. This year's top two to watch are Sweden's Caroline Hedwall (her amateur career has been superb) and England's Kelly Tidy (still young but plenty of experience and a local girl).
Are there any interesting outsiders? Keep an eye on Korea's Amy Yang. She played a lot of her early golf in Australia and initially broke through there with a win in the Masters. Since then she impressed on the LET and has started to perform creditably this year on the LPGA. She has form on links courses (second to Stupples at Royal St Davids last year), is not scared of wind and was fifth in the recent US Open. She's 100/1.
- Els to build on momentum
- Woods and McIlroy to star in Dubai
- Jacklin expects more from Rose
- Golfers impressed by Merion
- Frustration gets the better of McIlroy
- Mickelson left heartbroken again
- Woods completes worst ever score
- Rose in bloom as Mickelson wilts
- Rose is US Open Champion
- Thornton secures first tour win
Neville Leck Blog
"When Adam Scott won at iconic Augusta National on Sunday, he not only took possession of his first Major, he also c..."
This week's US PGA Tour stop is at TPC River Highlands, a private golf club located in Cromwell, Connecticut.
This week's BMW International Open will, once more, be played at Golfclub Munchen Nord-Eichenreid.
Which IJP Design personality are you? Win the chance to represent IJP Design.
Ian Poulter's firm releases the latest putter covers to commemorate the 2013 majors.
EnglishTLS says: "...Did someone put a witches curse on Clermont? How the mighty fallen!..."
Looking For The Perfect Pitch? Visit The Swing Doctor!