The 41st staging of the Ricoh Women’s British Open takes place at Kingsbarns Golf Links, near St Andrews in Scotland this week, as the venue hosts a Major Championship for the first time.
A year has now passed since Ariya Jutanugarn’s victory at Woburn Golf & Country Club. While the 21-year-old from Thailand has a title to her name in 2017 and even rose to World No. 1 for two weeks in June, a nagging shoulder injury, inflamed from surgery she had in 2013, certainly did not help, as Jutanugarn missed the cut or withdrew from three consecutive events in July and has been battling a cold since last week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open, where she tied for 44th place.
The 2015 champion Inbee Park from South Korea, who won at Turnberry, makes her return to the championship, having been forced to sit out the 2016 event with a thumb injury, along with all of the top 25 players from the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Since the Ricoh Women’s British Open became a Major in 2001, only two players have won more than one title – Yani Tseng (2010, 2011) and Jiyai Shin (2008, 2012). However, Karrie Webb (1995, 1997 and 2002) and Sherri Steinhauer (1998, 1999 and 2006) have both won the title three times in total.
Sally Watson from Scotland will hit the opening tee shot at 6.30am on Thursday, while fellow Scot Catriona Matthew will tee off at 7.25am with Anna Nordqvist and Leona Maguire.
It could be a case of ‘Beware of the sick golfer,’ as Nordqvist has been in bed for the last two weeks with glandular fever. This means that the Swede will not fulfil the minimum requirement of Ranking events to qualify for The Solheim Cup and will be looking for a captain’s pick from Annika Sorenstam when the European and United States teams are announced at Kingsbarns an hour after play at approximately 8pm on Sunday evening.
The Ricoh Women’s British Open is the final event before the 2017 Solheim Cup returns to U.S. soil at Des Moines Golf & Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 18-20, 2017.
The stakes have never been higher as both Teams USA and Europe will be announced following Sunday’s conclusion of play. Players from both teams finishing in the top 20 receive double the standard number of points and any European who wins will earn 80 points, meaning that they could mathematically qualify. On the USA side, only 35 points separate spots seven through 12. While Sorenstam will have four picks, Captain Juli Inkster will also have two captain’s selections to make, adding to what will surely be an exciting Sunday evening at Kingsbarns.
As well as Nordqvist, some of the potential European Solheim Cup players in the field include Suzann Pettersen, who will start her first round at 7.47am, Emily Kristine Pedersen, who is out at 9.20am, Carlota Ciganda, going out at 11.10am, Caroline Masson at 11.43am, Florentyna Parker and Georgia Hall, who are in the same group at 11.54am, Sandra Gal, who starts at 12.05pm, Charley Hull at 12.27pm, Jodi Ewart Shadoff at 1.11pm and Nicole Broch Larsen and Madelene Sagstrom, who are playing together in the penultimate group at 3.17pm.
Some of the likely United States Solheim Cup players in the field include Brittany Lincicome at 7.03am, Angela Stanford at 7.14am, Michelle Wie at 7.46am, Cristie Kerr at 8.09am and Lexi Thompson, playing with the defending champion and the world number one So Yeon Ryu at 12.16pm.
For the first time in her professional career, Thompson has just reached No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. So Yeon Ryu remains at the top of the rankings, with Jutanugarn (No. 3), Sung Hyun Park (No. 4) and Lydia Ko (No. 5) rounding out the top five.