Six Australians will be in the field when play gets underway later this afternoon the 2016 Ricoh Women’s British Open at Woburn Golf and Country Club.
For the first time the tournament will be played on The Marquess' Course, which opened in 2000, and was designed by Peter Alliss and Clive Clark, European Golf Design (Ross McMurray) and Alex Hay. The course was named after the then Marquess of Tavistock and was soon referred to as the 'Jewel in the Crown'.
Karrie Webb won the first of her three Women’s British Open titles on the demanding Duke’s layout at Woburn in 1995 before she became an LPGA Tour player, while Karen Lunn also won the title on the same layout in 1993.
A return to a park-like layout of Woburn is a departure from the British links courses used in rotation for the tournament since 2000, but The Marquess’s course is a high-quality layout which has hosted several European Tour events including the British Masters.
Inbee Park, will not be defending the title she won in 2015 at Turnberry, she has battled a chronic thumb injury for much of 2016 and is fighting to be fit for the Rio Olympics coming up next month.
Lydia Ko will again start favourite for the event, her form in 2016 has been exemplary and few would be brave enough to bet against her chasing down her 3rd major championship. Ko has had a perfect preparation for the tournament, while many of the leading players were battling it out in the Chicago heat at the UL International Crown the world number one was quietly going about her business.
Ko has only one top ten in four starts in the Ricoh Women’s British Open, but she is likely to improve on that record this week given the course and conditions should be much more to her liking.
There are also a handful of young players who threaten to spoil Ko’s party this week. World number 2, 18-year-old Canadian Brooke Henderson recently admitted she is still learning her trade and coming to terms with being one of the stars of the LPGA Tour. The affable Canadian claimed her second LPGA Tour title and her first major championship when she defeated the kiwi in a playoff at the KPMG PGA Championship in June and has gone on to win again since. Like Ko Henderson did not play last week and will come in this week fresh and ready to fire.
Young English star Charley Hull has barely been able to contain her excitement about the opportunity of playing a major Championship on her home course, however the twenty-year-old is likely to be feeling the effects of the asthma problems she suffered last week when she was forced to sit out day 2 of the UL International Crown. There is no-one who will know the course better than Hull, and she will have plenty of support from the huge galleries expected this week.
Ariya Jutanugarn is another who is expected to play well this week. The 20-year-old has had a breakthrough year in 2016, winning at the Kingsmill Championship in May followed up by two more wins in succession. Jutanagarn, who is widely regarded as the best ball striker and longest hitter in the ladies game also recently lost to Ko in a playoff in Toledo, she is in good form and it is surely only a matter of time until the super-talented youngster lifts her first major title.
Other players whom you would expect to contend this week are young Korean Sei Young Kim, US stars Lexi Thompson and Stacey Lewis and Swede Anna Nordqvist who finished second to Brittany Lang at the US Women’s Open earlier this month.
Of the Australians in the field, Karrie Webb has hardly had the perfect preparation after her luggage did not arrive with her after flying from Chicago to London. The Hall of Famer will be playing her first individual tournament after the disappointment of failing to qualify for the Australian Team to compete in Rio, and with good memories of Woburn who knows Webb still has the game to contend any week she turns up. Maybe now the pressure is off her shoulders Webb can find her best form which has so far mostly eluded her in 2016.
Minjee Lee came away from last week’s UL International Crown winless, but her form was much better than it read on paper and the Western Australian youngster has been in great form all year. It would not be surprising to see Lee contend this weekend, surely now having established herself firmly in the world’s top 20 her focus will now be on seriously contending in majors.
Webb and Lee will be joined in the field this week by fellow Aussies Su Oh, Rebecca Artis, Sarah Jane Smith and Stacey Keating.
The 2016 Ricoh Women’s British Open will be broadcast live in Australia starting on Thursday evening on Fox Sports 3 from 7pm AEDST.
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