World No.7 In-Kyung Kim, also known by her nickname ‘I.K.’, has had two opportunities to defend titles already this season and she is hoping that the third time is the charm when she attempts to retain her Ricoh Women’s British Open title at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club this week.
Kim claimed her maiden Major last year at Kingsbarns, which put her demons to bed as she had infamously missed a one foot putt to win another major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2012 and, had come close to winning Majors on several other occasions.
Reflecting on the last 12-months, she said: “This year it was very spectacular, my golfing situation. A lot of things happened on and off the course, and I finally feel in peace.”
She had to adjust to using a new set of golf clubs after her previous set, which are no longer in production, were lost whilst she was travelling. She has also become used to being a superstar athlete who is constantly in the limelight as a Major champion.
Kim played her second Ricoh Women’s British Open, in 2009, at Royal Lytham, which was the year when Catriona Matthew became the first Scot to win a Major, 11 weeks after the birth of her second daughter.
Kim added: “It’s a different venue, and I feel fresh, and this is my favourite golf course in the entire world. So just being here means a lot to me. Defending a title is just a bonus.”
The notoriously long and difficult course, which is hosting the Ricoh Women’s British Open for the fifth time, features 167 bunkers, which reduced Kim to tears the last time she played nine years ago.
“In ’07 when I turned pro, I played at The Old Course, and it was first time for the women to play at The Old Course, and that was my first. And I was like, oh, this is normal for me. And then I come here and I’m like, oh, my God. It was true links. I was going into every bunker and I just cried like crazy, because I’ve never experienced not getting out of a pot bunker. A lot of times, I could get out of it, but not here. But at the same time it was just shocking for me playing a links course. It was kind of my first true links, so I think that’s why it’s my favourite.”
“It’s a very tight golf course and I think that suits my game very well. At the same time, if I don’t execute it well, then I’ll get punished. It will just make me think a lot, so I won’t get bored on the course, which I think is the secret factor. So Seve (Ballesteros) won twice here. He won in ’88 when I was born and I thought that was really neat.”
Royal Lytham has hosted 11 Open Championships, two Ryder Cups, the Walker Cup, four Senior Opens and now five Women’s British Opens. The previous winners were American Sherri Steinhauer in 1998 and 2006, Annika Sorenstam, who completed the Grand Slam in 2003 and Matthew, who won the last staging in 2009.
A total of 144 players, including 56 Ladies European Tour members, led by Kim, will contest the fourth women’s Major championship of the year, which tees off at 6.30am on Thursday.
Scotland’s Kylie Henry will have the honour of hitting the first tee shot on the opening par-3 in the company of Chella Choi and local Lancashire player Bronte Law. In-Kyung Kim will be amongst the later starters at 12.16pm, playing with Japan’s Eri Okayama and British number one Charley Hull.