Karen Stupples three years ago at Royal Lytham

(LANCASHIRE, ENGLAND – Wednesday 28th July 2009) — Michelle Wie and Karen Stupples have agreed that they would be happy to shoot even par in the RICOH Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club this week. The championship links has been set up to present its greatest ever challenge to the leading women professionals, with the introduction of nine new bunkers over the par-72 course.

The weather has played a major part, with the heavy rain and heat of the last few months providing ideal conditions for growing the rough. Fairways are soft with less roll than in the three previous editions at Royal Lytham in 1998, 2003 and 2006.

Stupples, the last Briton to win the championship, at Sunningdale in 2004, said via her post on Twitter, “The new bunkers here at Lytham make you think a bit! They are horrible when you are in them but totally beautiful to look at.”

She added in a press conference: “The rough is a lot thicker and it’s very green as well so you’re not getting the run out that you were before. It’s six of one and half a dozen of another: You’re not going to get the run out into the rough and you might be able to hold the greens a bit better, but the holes will be playing longer.

“I think right now if you shoot even par, it’s open to anybody this week.”

American teenager Wie, who finished tied for 26th at the championship at Royal Lytham in 2006, said that she would be trying to stay out of the bunkers this time after being handed a penalty on her last visit when she hit a piece of moss in her backswing.

“They seem like they are multiplying, but there’s still grass on the course, so it’s just trying to find that grass,” Wie said.

Both players are hoping to receive captain’s picks for the upcoming Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest Farms near Chicago, from 21-23 August. The European and US teams will be announced by the captains Alison Nicholas and Beth Daniel on Sunday evening and the RICOH Women’s British Open is the final qualifying event.

US veteran Sherri Steinhauer has won the championship twice of the three times it has been played at Royal Lytham. Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam completed the grand slam here in 2003, but has since stepped away from the game to start a family.

A strong challenge is expected from the South Korean representatives, with 29 in the 144 player field, including the defending champion, world no.3 Jiyai Shin. The number of South Koreans in the field ranks second only to the United States, with 32 players.

South African Lee-Anne Pace will have the honour of hitting the first ball in the championship at 6.30am on Thursday morning, which is forecast to be partly sunny and windy with gusts of up to 30mph.

World No.1 Lorena Ochoa tees off with British favourite Stupples and last week’s Evian Masters champion, Ai Miyazato of Japan, at 7.47. American stars Wie, Natalie Gulbis and Japan’s Momoka Ueda are expected to draw a large gallery when they tee off together at 12.32, before the last group sets out at 15.28.

The 2009 event marks the 33rd staging of the championship and global technology leader, Ricoh, has announced that they will continue as the title sponsor through until 2013. Carnoustie and St Andrews were confirmed as the venues for the 2011 and 2013 championships, following next year’s staging at Royal Birkdale in 2010.