FROM DREAM TO REALITY – WORLD NO. 1 RYU READY FOR NEXT CHALLENGE
Over the last five years, perhaps no one has been as steady in the Ricoh Women’s British Open as current World No. 1 So Yeon Ryu. Since her championship debut in 2012, Ryu has never finished outside the top 20, with her best showing coming in 2015, when she tied for third. Her career 10th-place average? It’s the best among the 144 players competing at Kingsbarns Golf Links this week.
“I always wanted to win big tournaments no matter what,” said Ryu, who comes into this week fresh off a T23 finish at the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open. “Since I first started playing this tournament, I always felt like, okay, this is the one some day I really want to win.”
This has been a banner year for the 27-year-old from the Republic of Korea, who currently sits atop the Tour’s Money List ($1,718,659), Rolex Player of the Year standings (150 points) and Rolex ANNIKA Major Award standings (78 points). Ryu is one of only two women to win multiple events this season (the ANA Inspiration and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G), and she leads the Tour with 10 top-10 finishes.
On June 26, she ascended to World No. 1, capping what she has called a dream come true. But with that dream now reality, her fellow competitors are on notice – Ryu is not letting down anytime soon.
“I felt like all my hard work paid off, and I was really so happy about it, but after that, you just feel normal. You cannot really feel any different,” said Ryu. “Maybe I have to have more interviews and I’ve got more focus with other people, but everything is the same. I’m still the same going in here, and I’m still looking for something I want to achieve. So yeah, I feel like I cannot really feel any different before I become a No. 1 and right now.”
NEW HEIGHTS FOR THOMPSON
For the first time in her professional career, Lexi Thompson has reached No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. But for the 22-year-old Floridian, it’s just another day on the golf course.
“I actually don’t follow rankings at all,” said Thompson, who trails So Yeon Ryu for the top spot by 1.19 points. “My dad actually told me because he watches that a little bit more. You know, it’s not really something I focus on. I just go out, tee it up, and try to do my best any time I play in a tournament, and wherever my ranking goes, it goes.”
Thompson remained with her family in Florida last week, opting for some rest and relaxation over competing in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open. While she certainly sees the benefit in the extra week of in-country preparation, she hopes to rely on other links experiences to help prepare her for Kingsbarns.
“Every British Open has given me that experience, and I’ve learned different shots and learned how not to play certain holes and just stay away from bunkers,” said Thompson. “But yeah, it’s all been a learning experience over here and that’s what you have to do.”
And perhaps the extra intangible that could propel Thompson to victory? Her caddie, Kevin McAlpine, is a former Kingsbarns looper.
“Stepping foot out here the first time on Monday, I was like, I have no idea. I mean, there could be a bunker over that hill, I don’t know,” said Thompson, who started working with McAlpine earlier this season. “So he was just telling me every line and what every green does hitting the shots into them, so it’s been a huge help. He knows the greens very well.”
VETERANS DAVIES AND MATTHEW LOOKING FORWARD TO WEEK AHEAD
Laura Davies has played in every Ricoh Women’s British Open since 1980. Catriona Matthew has competed in every championship since 1995. These two ambassadors of women’s golf have a combined 60 championship appearances – not to mention five major titles and 19 Solheim Cups – and both hope to continue their success here at Kingsbarns.
For the first time in her illustrious career, Davies was forced to Monday qualify this week. Davies reached the championship with a par on the first playoff hole, and while she has reasonable expectations for her performance at Kingsbarns, she knows that her game is still good enough to feel proud of her showing.
“Realistically, my results haven’t been good but for the way I’m playing, it’s a lot better than the way I’m scoring,” said Davies, who won the 1986 Women’s British Open (the event became a major in 2001). “One of these weeks, the scoring is going to represent the shot-making. Hopefully it will be this week. I’m not saying I can win it. Obviously that’s a ludicrous statement, but I think I can make the cut and have a good weekend and then you never know.”
For Matthew, there is the added pressure of a potential European Solheim Cup Team berth on the line this week. While Matthew is already committed to join the team in West Des Moines, Iowa, as one of Captain Annika Sorenstam’s vice captains, she would certainly relish the opportunity to do more, should she receive a captain’s pick on Sunday.
“Obviously I’d love to have a good week this week and try and play my way into the team,” said Matthew, who won the 2009 Ricoh Women’s British Open just 11 weeks after giving birth to her second child. “I mean, certainly it’s in the back of my mind. At the end of the day, if I can go out and play good golf, that will take care of itself. It’s there but I’m not trying to think about it too much.”
Should Matthew serve as a playing vice-captain, she would join the USA’s Juli Inkster as the only players to fill both roles in one Solheim Cup. Inkster, who is captain of the 2017 USA squad, served in both capacities in 2011.
So Yeon Ryu is competing in her sixth Ricoh Women’s British Open, with her best finish coming in 2015, when she tied for third at Trump Turnberry’s Ailsa Course; she also finished in the top 10 in 2016 (T8) and 2012 (T5)
Lexi Thompson is competing in her sixth Ricoh Women’s British Open, with her best finish of T8 coming in 2016 at Woburn Golf & Country Club
Ninety of the top 100 players on the LPGA Money List are playing at Kingsbarns, including the top 82 players
There are 27 countries represented in the championship field, led by the USA (36 players), the Republic of Korea (20 players and England (11 players)
Six amateurs will compete in this week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open – Sophie Lamb (advanced through Monday’s final qualifier), My Leander (advanced through Monday’s final qualifier), Leona Maguire (2017 Ladies British Open Amateur champion, 2016 Mark McCormack Medal winner), Olivia Mehaffey (winner of the 2016 GB&I Women’s Order of Merit),Eun Jeong Seong (2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion) and Atthaya Thittikul (winner of the Ladies European Thailand Championship)
“No matter how easy or difficult it is, after you achieve your goal, you’re going to feel like you achieved something or you improved something. Yeah, I’d suggest to always make a goal to achieve when you practice.” - So Yeon Ryu, on the biggest practice takeaway she has learned from working with Ian Baker-Finch, winner of the 1991 Open at Royal Birkdale Golf Club
“I’ve never been so relaxed out there, and he’s definitely been a good change. He knows my game very well. He’s a player, too, so it’s good to have him on the bag. I’m very grateful.” - Lexi Thompson, on her relationship with caddie Kevin McAlpine
“I have the same one as last week, so I’m doing well.” - Catriona Matthew, when asked about recent caddie changes in the news; her husband, Graeme, is her caddie
“I’ve only qualified at U.S. Opens. I think I’ve done three of those. I’ve been lucky, not had to qualify much. I can’t really complain. But it’s not a fun thing to do. If you want to play bad enough, you’ll try it.” - Laura Davies, on having to Monday qualify for the Ricoh Women’s British Open