Women play first at British Opens
The Ricoh Women’s British Open is scheduled for this week at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, following by the men’s British Open next week at Royal Liverpool, located in Liverpool, England, 45 minutes south of Birkdale and Southport, England. The Senior British Open is scheduled for July 24-27 at Royal Porthcawl, Wales.
Some other tidbits about this week:
- The game’s hottest player, Stacy Lewis, is the defending champion. She won last year at St. Andrews, Scotland.
- No player has won consecutive Women’s British Open crowns since Yani Tseng in 2010 (Royal Birkdale) and 2011 (Carnoustie). The last American to win consecutive titles was Sherri Steinhauer in 1998 and 1999.
- Some of the key pairings for the first two rounds include: Inbee Park, Azahara Munoz and Angela Stanford; Lydia Ko, Paula Creamer and Ai Miyazato; Lexi Thompson, Stephanie Meadow and Gwladys Nocera; Stacy Lewis, Charley Hull and Ayako Uehara; Michelle Wie, Sandra Gal and Rikako Morita.
- England’s Laura Davies will be playing in a record 30th consecutive Ricoh Women’s British Open and was elected as an honorary member at Royal Birkdale.
- This year marks the 20th that the tournament has been co-sponsored by the LPGA and Ladies Golf Union. It earned major status in 2001. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews runs the men’s Open Championship and Senior Open but not the Women’s Open, which is operated by International Management Group.
- Dates for the event have varied over last few years. The 2012 tournament was played in mid-September because of the Summer Olympic Games in London and the 2013 tournament was played in early August. This is one of the earliest dates for this event.
- Royal Birkdale debuted as a Women’s British Open site in 1982 when Marta Figueras-Dotti won. Other Birkdale winners have included England’s Laura Davies (1986), Sophie Gustafson (2000), South Korea’s Jeong Jang (2005) and Yani Tseng (2010).
- Royal Birkdale has also hosted two Ryder Cups (1965 and 1969) and nine British Opens, the last won by Irishman Padraig Harrington in 2008. Royal Birkdale will host the men again in 2017.
Lewis defends, but still on defense
Despite leading practically every category on the LPGA halfway through 2014 and riding a streak where she has finished second and first in her last two starts, No. 1-ranked Stacy Lewis could lose her top spot in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week.
Should No. 2-ranked Lydia Ko win at Royal Birkdale and Lewis finish in a four-way tie for second or worse, Ko would elevate to the No. 1 spot. At age 17, Ko would be five years younger than the youngest previous No. 1s, Yani Tseng and Jiyai Shin, both 22 at the time.
This week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open will be aired on ESPN2 in the United States and on ESPN and BBC2 in Europe, with all four rounds live and a total of 14 hours of coverage. The first two rounds are scheduled for 9 a.m.-noon EDT and the weekend rounds from 8 a.m.-noon EDT.
On ESPN2, Tom Rinaldi will anchor ESPN’s coverage, joined for analysis by World Golf Hall of Famer Judy Rankin and two-time women’s major winner Dottie Pepper. Two-time time U.S. Open champion Andy North and Bill Kratzert report from the course.
Hazel Irvine is the BBC host, with commentary from World Golf Hall of Famer Peter Alliss.
Royal Birkdale’s finish
Royal Birkdale’s finish offers ample opportunity to make up ground, especially for the game’s longer hitters. Three of the final four holes are par 5s – the 15th, 17th and 18th – on a layout that is 35-37—72.
In 2010, Yani Tseng played the concluding par 5s in 7-under par, including making two eagles on the 18th en route to a one-stroke victory over Katherine Hull-Kirk. In 2005, Jeong Jang played those par 5s in 5-under and was 8-under on all the par 5s (No. 6 is the only par 5 on the front nine). Tseng was 10-under on all the par 5s in her 2010 win.
Two international players who are at the top of their games entering this week’s tournament are Wales’ Becky Brewerton and Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow. Brewerton, a former Solheim Cup participant, won two qualifiers, one in June and another last week. Meadow qualified for the event following a third-place finish at the U.S. Women’s Open in her professional debut and a third-place finish in last week’s ISPS Handa European Masters. … The 2015 Ricoh Women’s British Open will be played at Turnberry for only the second time. Karrie Webb won there in 2002. … I.K. Kim’s victory last week in the Ladies European Masters on the Ladies European Tour was her first win since the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational.