The LPGA Tour will kick off the final major championship of the 2011 season on Thursday in Scotland at the Carnoustie Golf Links for the RICOH Women’s British Open. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng will try to defend her title this week as the storied golf course hosts the event for the very first time.
Last year, Tseng finished at 11-under-par 277 to take a one-stroke victory over Katherine Hull at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club. It was one of two major championship titles that Tseng captured last year, as she had also won the first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Tseng has carried that success into this season. She took over the top spot in the Rolex Rankings in mid-February, just before the LPGA Tour’s season-opening Thailand LPGA Classic. Tseng went on to win that event, giving her four victories in her first four starts worldwide this year. After capturing the LPGA State Farm Classic, Tseng, 22, followed up the win by capturing her fourth career major title at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. She became the youngest golfer in LPGA history to win four majors.
In addition to Tseng, the star-studded field at the RICOH Women’s British Open will feature 22 of the top-23 players in the world. This week’s top-10 in the Rolex Rankings is comprised of Tseng, No. 2 Cristie Kerr, No. 3 Suzann Pettersen, No. 4 Jiyai Shin, No. 5 Na Yeon Choi, No. 6 and last week’s Evian Masters champion Ai Miyazato, No. 7 I.K. Kim, No. 8 Sun-Ju Ahn, No. 9 Paula Creamer and No. 10 Karrie Webb.
The Women's British Open was first held in 1976. The tournament joined the LPGA schedule in 1994 and became an LPGA Major championship in 2001. Se Ri Pak became the first player to win the event as a Major in 2001, when she defeated the field at Sunningdale Golf Club. Six former RICOH Women's British Open champions will compete for the trophy this week. Karrie Webb (2002, Turnberry), Karen Stupples (2004, Sunningdale), Jeong Jang (2005, Royal Birkdale), Sherri Steinhauer (2006, Royal Lytham and St. Annes), Jiyai Shin (2008, Sunningdale), Catriona Matthew (2009, Royal Lytham) and Tseng, the defending champion (Royal Birkdale).
Carnoustie has certainly seen its share of major championships, having hosted The Open Championship on seven occasions. The most recent was the 2007 Open Championship, where Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garia in a playoff.
Golf has been played over the links at Carnoustie since the 1500’s but the present course came into being in 1850 when it was designed by Alan Robertson of St Andrews. Some 20 years later the legendary Old Tom Morris improved and extended the course to 18 holes and in 1926 the famous architect James Braid redesigned the Championship course extensively.