News

Season's fourth major kicking off at Royal Lytham & St Anne's

July 31, 2018

For the fourth time in its major history, the Ricoh Women’s British Open comes to Lancashire, England, and Royal Lytham and St Annes. Newly minted Rolex Rankings No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn and defending champion In-Kyung Kim lead the field of 144 players who hope to master the elements and capture the prestigious title. Kim would join Yani Tseng as the only players to win consecutive Women’s British Open titles since the event joined the major ranks in 2001, while Jutanugarn, the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open champion, could come the first player to win the U.S. and British major titles in the same season.

Embed from Getty Images

Nineteen of the top 20 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings have made their way to Lancashire to compete this week on a course that dates to 1897. Host country England hopes to see its first winner since Karen Stupples took the title in 2004, with 2017 runner-up Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Bronte Law and Mel Reid leading the charge.

This week’s winner will become eligible to win the 2018 Rolex ANNIKA Major Award, which is bestowed upon the player with the season’s most outstanding major championship performance. She will join Pernilla Lindberg (ANA Inspiration), Jutanugarn (U.S. Women’s Open) and Sung Hyun Park (KPMG Women’s PGA Championship), with the award decided following the season’s final major, The Evian Championship. Past winners are Michelle Wie (2014), Inbee Park (2015), Lydia Ko (2016) and So Yeon Ryu (2017).

Since 2001, the Ricoh Women’s British Open has been a major on the LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour

This is the third time the major will be conducted at Royal Lytham and St Annes; previous winners here are Annika Sorenstam (2003), Sherri Steinhauer (2006) and Catriona Matthew (2009), who is in this week’s championship field

Since becoming a major, three Europeans have claimed victory – Annika Sorenstam in 2003 (Royal Lytham and St Annes), Karen Stupples in 2004 (Sunningdale) and Catriona Matthew in 2009 (Royal Lytham and St Annes)

The championship venue, Royal Lytham and St Annes, is also part of the rota for The Open Championship; notable past winners include Bobby Jones (1926), Gary Player (1974), Seve Ballesteros (1979, 1988) and Ernie Els (2012)

Prior to 2001, the tournament was a co-sanctioned LPGA Tour/Ladies European Tour event from 1994-2000 and was first conducted in 1976

Defending champion Kim back playing her favorite course

While In-Kyung Kim has yet to reach the winner’s circle since claiming victory at the 2017 Ricoh Women’s British Open, her large smile belies any on-course frustrations. The Korean star, who now makes her home in Southern California, says she’s “at peace” with a year that has brought her wins, losses, a saga of lost golf clubs and a welcomed closure to the distress of her loss at the 2012 ANA Inspiration.

Kim is playing in her second Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, having finished T20 in the 2009 championship on these links. She calls the course, peppered with 167 bunkers, “my favorite golf course in the entire world.” Kim also has another reason to enjoy this walk – one of her golf heroes, the great Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros, won two of his Open titles here.

Jutanugarn comfortable and back at no.1

Ariya Jutanguarn has freely admitted that when she reached No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings last year, she struggled. After reaching the pinnacle of women’s golf on June 12, 2017, she missed the cut or withdrew from six of her next eight events, a shocking freefall for one of the world’s most steady, seemingly unflappable players.

But since October, Jutanugarn has been arguably the strongest player on the LPGA Tour. In her last 25 starts, she has four wins, 12 top 10s and no missed cuts. She leads the LPGA in earnings and birdies and is atop the standings for Rolex Player of the Year honors and the Race to the CME Globe. Oh, and after a win last week in Scotland, she’s back to World No. 1.

So what can the world expect from the Thai great this time?

“I just feel like I want to get better every day,” said Jutanugarn. “I want to make sure every tournament, like after the final round, I have something to be proud of myself. And I did.”

Park hopes third time will be the charm

This is Sung Hyun Park’s third time competing in this championship, and the 24-year-old from the Republic of Korea hopes to become just the fourth player in major history to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in the same season. If Park completes the feat, she would join all-time LPGA greats Inbee Park (2015), Yani Tseng (2011) and Annika Sorenstam (2003).

Jessica Korda on the challenge of links golf

“My first introduction was Carnoustie in 2011, and I was in the wave that got absolutely dumped on. So that was not the best introduction. But I fell in love with it. I love the different shots that you have to play, and you can't just hit a high ball and try and spin it and around the greens. there's so many different shots that you can hit. And I think that's really fun. It kind of brings the creativity back into golf a little bit more than versus just trying to hit it far and high. So I really enjoy links golf. I'm glad we play it only once a year because it is very stressful. When this wind starts picking up and you don't know what these bounces are going to do, because it is going to get firm out there, especially if we're not expecting a whole lot of rain.”

Lap 22 in Race to the CME Globe

This week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open marks the 22nd lap of the 2018 Race to the CME Globe. Ariya Jutanugarn continues to sit atop the standings with 3,154 points, followed by Minjee Lee with 2,105 points. Moriya Jutanugarn sits third with 1,896 points, followed by Jin Young Ko (1,804 points) and Nasa Hataoka (1,702 points).

Throughout the season’s official events, LPGA Members will battle for position, with the top 12 players after the Blue Bay LPGA heading into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship with the opportunity to take home a $1 million bonus, the biggest prize in women’s golf.

All tournaments have the same point values except for the five major championships, which carry 25 percent more value. For all events with a cut, points are awarded to members who make the cut, while for events without a cut, points are awarded to members who finish in the top 40 and ties.

Points will be reset for the CME Group Tour Championship following the Blue Bay LPGA, with the top 72 LPGA Members, as well as any non-Member winners and alternates, seeded into the championship field. For the top five players, it’s easy – win the CME Group Tour Championship and take home $1 million. However, the top 12 in the points race all have a mathematical chance to take the title of Race to the CME Globe Champion and win the coveted check.

In 2017, Lexi Thompson became the first American winner of the Race to the CME Globe and the accompanying $1 million prize. She joined Lydia Ko (2014, 2015) and Ariya Jutanugarn (2016) as the only players to hoist the crystal trophy.