Carly's blog - news and views on the world of ladies' golf
BUILD UP TO THE BRITISH OPEN!
Our Ladies Editor Carly Frost is following the form on the fairways at Hoylake to give you the insider view on the players to watch this week...
What a shame the Ricoh Women's British Open wasn't held one week ago in the blazing sunshine and amazing heat of an Indian summer we enjoyed. What a wonderful first week of September we had. Sadly, someone has turned the tap on it looks like the world's best female professionals are going to have to battle the elements on the links at The Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake this week. As I arrived into the car park of the club yesterday, which incidentally has held the men's British Open on numerous occasions but is hosting the Women's British Open for the first ever time this week, the rain was pelting down on the car and I didn't even want to step foot out, this really is going to be a battle of the brave if the weatherman is right.
Whilst most of the world's media have stayed huddled inside the warm and dry press tent I couldn't resist getting out and treading the hallowed fairways in eager anticipation of the tournament teeing off tomorrow. And I was lucky to be able to walk alongside some of the top women players in the world and watch them practise. So with that in mind I've hand-picked a selection of ladies you might want to watch this week, I've thrown in their latest odds if you fancy a flutter and the times you'll see them on the BBC, plus my personal pick. I hope you learn a little from watching these ladies - they really are inspirational!
INSIDE THE ROPES
YANI GETS A TASTE OF BRITAIN!
It's funny what you hear over lunch. I was sat next to one of the Ricoh official chauffeurs yesterday who was telling me that he had picked the World Number One Yani Tseng up from the airport on Monday. Oblivious to the credentials of the talented, young Taiwanese golfer he was chatting away politely to her in the car and she asked him if he would make a detour via a Chinese takeaway on route to her hotel. But when she saw a giant McDonalds sign she decided to change her mind and asked the chauffeur to go via the drive through.
"You don't want to eat any junk food before the tournament," he joked. "Well it didn't harm me last time," Yani replied. "Oh, you played last year?" the naive driver questioned. "Yes I've won this tournament the last two years," replied Yani very matter of fact, much to the drivers embarrassment and astonishment.
So it just goes to show that sometimes the best preparation for a tournament is to tuck into your favourite food!
ENGLISH AMATEURS GET IN ON THE ACTION
Curtis Cup player Bronte Law is one of six English amateurs who have qualified for the Ricoh Women's British Open which starts at Royal Liverpool tomorrow.
Bronte Law was the top scoring amateur in final qualifying at Caldy Golf Club, Cheshire, finishing in third place with a level par round of 72.
Afterwards Emily Taylor who last week helped England win the women's Home Internationals - commented on her achievement: Playing in the Open is massive for me, I tried to qualify last year but missed out by two and that made me want it even more.
If you can put on a good show in the Open your career can come on leaps and bounds. It is so exciting to be playing alongside the world's best. But I am not going to put pressure on myself, it is all about going out there and learning from the experience."
MICHELLE CALLS UPON HER ARTISTIC SKILLS
Michelle Wie might be best-known for her golfing talents but when the 22-year-old is off the golf course she relaxes by putting pencil to paper and sketching.
"I love drawing and painting in my hotel room after playing golf, I find it so relaxing and therapeutic and something enjoyable to do when I'm away from home travelling," explained the Hawaiian who even has her own blog: www.ablackflamingo.blogspot.com
Wie believes that her artistic skills will transfer to the golf course this week. "I'll definitely be calling upon that creativity and imagination around the greens this week. If the wind continues to blow and we have heavy showers it is going to be a real challenge and shot-making control will be critical. I have what I like to call my 'British Open' shot, the one that's designed for the wind, and I'll certainly need to perfect that, not to mention the variety of short game shots I'll need to play."
As for the key to winning this week, Michelle has looked at what her Nike compatriot and PGA Tour star Tiger Woods did the week he won The Open Championship here at Hoylake. "Tiger didn't go in a single bunker all week," said Michelle, "that's a big motivation for me. If I can stay out of the bunkers then I'll avoid having to come out sideways and that's pretty much the only option. They really are a penalty."
THE FUTURE STAYS BRIGHT FOR BRITISH OPEN AFTER RICOH EXTENDS ITS SPONSORSHIP
In the tough global economic climate it's good to hear some good news on the sponsorship front, so when it was announced yesterday that Ricoh, the title sponsor of the Women's British Open, where extending their support of the tournament, it was a pleasure to hear.
Simon Sasaki, Corporate Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Ricoh Company Ltd, explained: "The Ricoh Women's British Open is a global tournament that brings together the best golf players in the world. Each player, with the help of her team, is focused upon improving her golfing techniques year on year. This is how we work with our clients too, collaborating with them to understand the best ways to manage information, improve business agility and respond to their needs."
The agreement extends the Ricoh sponsorship until at least the 2016 Championship, the ten year anniversary from when Ricoh first started to support the event. Shona Malcolm, Ladies Golf Union CEO, added: "The success of this sponsorship for Ricoh and this announcement illustrates the strength of the women's game globally and the strength and value of the Ricoh Women's British Open as an effective marketing tool."
Alex Armas, Executive Director of the Ladies European Tour concluded, "This is fantastic news and on behalf of the Ladies European Tour and our players I want to acknowledge how important Ricoh's investment and support has been for women's golf. Each year the Championship seems to get better and this is not only down to the expertise of the Ladies Golf Union and IMG, but also Ricoh who is a fantastic sponsor to have on board."
THE TOP CONTENDERS...
Yani is the force to be reckoned with in women's golf. She is the youngest professional golfer in the modern era to win all four Major Championships and is currently ranked Number One in the Women's World Golf Rankings. As the defending Women's British Open champion, having claimed the title at Carnoustie last year, she tees off as the undisputed favourite. If Yani wins at Hoylake this week it will be her third Women's British Open title!
"I love this course and I'm feeling very good about this week," said Yani, smile beaming on her face. "I've been working hard on my game this year and the wins haven't come and I've been very hard on myself but I feel that it is my turn this week. I'm going to go out there and really enjoy playing golf with a smile on my face. The tougher the conditions the happier I am. I'd rather shoot even par to win in tough conditions that get a week with no wind and shoot 16 under par. It's going to be stressful out there but I'm just going to stay patient and see how many good shots I can hit. I watched the footage of how Tiger won here back in 2006 and I'm going to try and copy that. I've put a 3-iron in the bag for the first time ever this week and taken out my 22 degree hybrid. It will allow me to keep the ball low and I'm hitting it good, I'm looking forward to it."
The Japanese sensation is the former Women's World Number One player and at just five feet tall is a pocket dynamo on the golf course who can smash her drives miles! Ai was born into a family of golfers, her two brothers are also professional golfers and her Dad is a teaching pro, and she first picked up a club when she was four years old. She is a superstar in her home country Japan and can't walk down the street without being recognised. "When I first turned pro it was really tough. I had to wear a disguise or everybody would recognise me and I really didn't like that. But since moving to the LPGA Tour I have been more comfortable. Outside of Japan I can see my country in a different way. I embrace the fame more and I can see that the Japanese people are just cheering me on."
"I'm really excited to be here at the British Ladies Open as I love the atmosphere of this tournament. The weather is definitely going to play a big part in scoring this week, it's super windy out there! What's even harder is that the wind is switching direction on a daily basis. That means that you are going to have to change your game plan every day and play really smart."
American Stacey Lewis has overcome real physical adversity to forge an amazing career as a professional golfer. When she was 11 years old she was diagnosed with scoliosis and had a spinal fusion when she was in high school. It didn't stop her from playing college golf and she has since gone on to be one of the top Women professionals in the world. She cemented her golfing pedigree by winning her first Major Championship with victory in The Kraft Nabisco last year. She's a steely competitor who only seems to get better when the going gets tough! She was runner up in the LPGA Championship earlier this year, can she go one better this week?
"This is the hardest course I've ever played," said Stacey after battling around the Royal Liverpool links for the first time on Tuesday. "This type of golf is so different from what I'm used to. It takes a lot of patience to play in this wind and you have to learn lots of new shots like bump and runs around the greens. Playing the Par 5s well will be key as three of them are reachable. I've been playing well all season so I'm just going to go out there and try and hit the ball well this week."
Another home favourite and a proven winner already this year. Catriona collected the Irish Ladies Open title at the beautiful Killeen Castle Golf Club in August and has shown great form throughout the year. Her Major breakthrough came back in 2009 when she won the Ricoh Women's British Open at Carnoustie, so she will be no stranger to tough links conditions when she tees off at Hoylake this week.
"If the weather forecast comes true then the first two days it will be a case of survival of the fittest, just getting round. I've grown up playing links golf in these conditions but this course is brutal. Keeping it out of the rough and out of the bunkers will be key. The rough here is like every golf course in Britain this summer, it's really thick. You're going to hit bad shots in these conditions but it's important to get the ball back in play and give yourself at least a putt for par or bogey at worst."
Paula is enjoying a sparkling 2012 season with a Major title already under her belt in the US Open Championship. The 'Pink Panther', as she is known, is on the prowl again for another Major title and is certainly taking the Ricoh Women's British Open seriously as she came to play the course over a month ago to get a feel for the links and find her way around the fairways. The American has clearly done her homework well as she looks at home and comfortable on the tough links with her game in great shape to post a low score this week.
"I'm really pleased that I came and saw the course just to know the lines and where not to go," explains Paula. "I've learned a lot from the experience on where to go on every hole, the lines to take and the trouble to avoid, and even though the weather was totally different, I was playing in a t-shirt and shorts that week, I think it was a smart idea. The course sets up really well for me. I hope it stays this windy and it plays hard - I like the challenge."
Lydia is one of the amateur players who will be teeing off at Hoylake and at just 15 years of age she is also the youngest competitor in the field. She is already a proven champion having won the CN Canadian Women's Open last month and is no stranger to playing golf in the North West of England having played in the Astor Trophy at Lytham last year.
"I have had an amazing summer and I feel like it can only get better," said Lydia. "I can't wait to tee off in my first Ricoh Women's British Open. I have been practising all the shots I'll need to play this week at Hoylake and I have my coach Guy Wilson on the bag which really helps. I'm not putting too much expectation on myself, my goal is to just try and make the cut and go from there."
FANCY AN EACH-WAY FLUTTER? TRY THESE...
It's hard to believe that Michelle is only 22 years old, as we've been watching her play golf in the professional ranks for over a decade! In fact Michelle was just 10 when she became the youngest player to ever qualify for a USGA amateur championship. The Korean-born American went on to become the youngest winner of the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links and the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA Tour event.
hen she turned professional just before her 16 th birthday she gained lucrative endorsement deals from Nike and Sony. But it was her greatest strength, an ability to hit the ball as far as a male tour professional that caused her career to fall apart as she was talked into trying to compete against the men at such a young age. It was detrimental to her game and her confidence. Six years on, and after going back to Stamford University to graduate, Michelle has emerged a much more rounded player and a real contender again in the game.
"Hoylake was the first links course I ever played," recalled Michelle in her press conference yesterday "so I've got great memories here. I last played here back in 2005. Regular golf goes out of the window in these conditions. You have to be really creative and control your ball flight. I'm so used to playing golf in the pitch and stop conditions of the States that I love to come over here and play and mix it up."
Carly might be Scottish but she has local blood in her. Mum Pauline was born in Liverpool and still has family on both sides of the River Mersey who will be cheering Carly on. Dad Wally actually worked at The Cavern when the Beatles were first starting out. As a mad-keen Liverpool fan it will be no surprise if Carly chooses to tee off in red this week, when she'll be looking to add a Major title to the two tournament victories that have propelled her to the top of the Ladies European Tour order of merit this season.
"I have played the course a few times over the years and it is a great venue. A lot will depend on the way the wind is blowing; the course can be a different challenge every day. I am not putting any pressure on myself this week with any expectations of how I will get on, I am going to just go out there, have some fun and do my best and see where that takes me. I'm fortunate to be staying with my cousin locally so that will help me relax and I will have lots of family out here supporting me this week."
England's highest ranked player on the Ladies European Tour has had to overcome family tragedy this year when her Mum sadly died in a car accident but she showed real strength of character to win her first event back on the LET, the Prague Golf Masters at the end of June. It took her LET victory tally to four but she's yet to prove her calibre in the Majors. Her best finish to-date is just tied 16 th so maybe this week could be her calling.
"The Ricoh Womens British Open was one of my Mum's favourite tournaments," said an emotional Reid. "I really want to do well this week in her memory. It has been hard to compete and I broke down the week of the Evian when it all hit me but I'm going to try and use the emotions as a strength and just go out there and fight for my family. I have high hopes to do well this week."
The home favourite and undoubtedly one of the greatest professional golfers of the modern era, Laura is certainly Britain's most accomplished female golfer. In a stellar career spanning 27 years Laura has won the LET Order of Merit a staggering seven times, has amassed 81 professional wins worldwide, including four Majors and since turning professional in 1985 has won at least one title somewhere in the world every season, except 2005. She's not won a Major since 1996 but a win this week at Hoylake would get her into the World Golf Hall of Fame. She's also coming into the Championship off the back of a second place finish last week so will be feeling confident.
"I've been playing well all year, it's just been my putting that has been letting me down but if I can keep the three-putts off the scorecard I'll do well," explains Laura. "We are on one of the hardest links courses I have ever seen in my life. I think the key is not to get too defensive but to go out there and be aggressive and stay ahead. I hope I'm in the mix with a chance on Sunday or if not one of the home girls in contention to win. It would just end such a great summer of sport for Great Britain."
The seven-time Major winner is the oldest competitor in the field and has been granted special exemption to play after having a few months off following surgery on her elbow. Beware the injured golf they say! With 31 wins and a career spanning nearly 30 years Julie will be looking to cap her career off this week with a first win at the Ricoh Women's British Open - the only major missing from her résumé.
MY PERSONAL PICK...
"If you're looking for an excellent each-way bet then you'd be well advised to back young Swedish star Caroline Hedwall. The 23-year-old is a player in form, having won last week in Austria by successfully defending her UNIQA Ladies Open title she won last year. In a very short time on Tour Caroline has already made a massive mark on the ladies game. She made an instant mark by sweeping through the field at Q-School with a nine stroke victory back in 2010 and then going on to win her maiden event as a professional the following week. She was named 2011 Rookie of the Year last year and rightly so, after collecting five professional wins in her maiden season, not to mention being one of the stars of the show in the Solheim Cup, helping the European team to victory. At 80/1 she's a great bet."
BBC TV SCHEDULE
Thursday 13th September
CARLY ON THE COURSE
The ladies will face a very difficult opening tee shot with tight bunkering on either side of the fairway. They could play short for safety but it will leave a longer second shot, especially into the prevailing head wind, which could mean hitting as much as a 3-wood into a tricky green, which rises and falls at the front. A par here will be a great start to their tournament.
6th: 157 yards, par 3
It's not length but accuracy that will be required at this fantastic little par 3. A small green runs across from the tee and the wind tends to be into and off the right. The left traps are very deep, making a left pin position very difficult. The safe play will be to the centre of the green leaving an easy two-putt for par.
8th: 382 yards, par 4
12th: 397 yards, par 4
Probably the toughest hole on the course: it's a long way back to the new tee box that the ladies will play from here and it's a very tough drive. Even a good tee shot will leave a long iron as an approach fighting the prevailing wind off the left all the way. A player recording a par here on all four days will be well on the way to winning the Championship.
14th: 400 yards, par 4
This is the start of a very tough closing stretch of holes, where any player paring in could win the title. The fairway falls in from the left and is another tough drive. The players will be well advised to hit it down the right side short of the traps with a driver or a three-wood depending on the wind. A miss hit approach shot will be best missed short and right because anything left is dead.
17th: 457 yards, par 4
Did I say the 12 th was the hardest hole? When the players reach the 17th it will definitely look like the hardest hole to them. It's very narrow, usually into the wind, and hitting the fairway is a must. The ladies will be left with a long iron or even a fairway wood into a narrow, slopey green.
18th: 540 yards, par 5
What a great finishing hole this is! The Out of Bounds on the right is in play and it is such a fiery fairway that the ball can take one hop and be gone. It's narrower than it looks from the tee but if a player decides to take on the drive and hit it straight they will be rewarded with an easy chance to go for the green in two and an eagle chance. It will be especially temping if the prevailing downwind blows and will offer a fantastic do or die finish to the Championship.
PLAN A WEEKEND BREAK IN THE WIRRAL
If you enjoy watching the ladies tackle The Royal Liverpool golf course this weekend and fancy organising a ladies golfing break to the Wirral yourself then log onto www.visitwirral.com
Along with the famous Hoylake links there are 13 other golf courses to play, including two Municipal courses, catering for all budgets. While Royal Liverpool is the jewel in Wirral's crown other great links include Wallasey, where the famous 'Stableford' scoring system originated.
There's even a ladies-only club! Wirral Ladies is a historic venue and often described as a hidden golfing gem. This pretty heathland course acts as a lovely contrast to the links courses in the area. At just 4,954 yards it's a fun course for ladies just starting out in the game or those just wanting an easy outing, and it only costs £20 to play.
Accommodation choices are abundant, from swanky hotels to budget B&Bs or self catering cottages ideal for groups. If you log onto www.visitwirral.com you will discover a whole host of 'Stay & Play' offers.
Visit www.wirralgolfclassic.co.uk for more information.