As soon as she banked a tie for 22nd in the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan on Sunday, South Africa’s top export Lee-Anne Pace took the first flight to Scotland to join compatriots Nicole Garcia, Ashleigh Simon and Paula Reto in this week’s Ricoh British Women’s Open at the Trump Turnberry Resort. The Pearl Valley golfer says: ‘The Ricoh Womens British Open is one of my favourite tournaments of the season and I’m stoked to get started. I’ve been looking forward to this week all year.’
Pace was able to fit in two practice rounds at the Ailsa Course and declared herself ready to challenge in the season’s fourth Major. The double Investec Cup for Ladies champion says: ‘My preparation has been very good. I’ve had a couple of solid weeks and I’m happy with where my game is at. The Open is always fun because you are able to play a wide variety of shots and you get to use your imagination. The only variable you can’t control is the weather and it’s usually a factor. You just have to make the most with what you get when it’s your time on the first tee.’ Reto will lead the South African posse into action in Thursday’s first round.
The second-season LPGA Tour campaigner, Ladies European Tour winner Felicity Johnson from England and Denmark’s Nanna Koertz Madsen are off at 10:59. Pace gets started at 13:43 and will play the first two rounds with Lucie Andre from France and Chinese Taipei’s Candie Kung. Nicole Garcia will have Xiyu Lin from China and Dutch player Dewi Claire Schreefel for company at 14:16, while fellow Wanna Be A Champion Academy member Ashleigh Simon completes the local line-up and will start alongside Scotland’s Kylie Walker and Chiara Merterns from Germany at 15:55.
Meanwhile all eyes will be on world number one Inbee Park. The six-time Major champion will launch her bid for her first Open title alongside Spain’s Azahara Munoz, a four-time LET and LPGA Tour winner, and fellow Major winner Stacy Lewis from the United States. The 27-year old South Korean says: ‘I’ve never put my name on the British Open trophy and that is really my main goal. My first couple of years at the British Open was a real shock, because I’d never played golf like that before. After my third or fourth year, I learned how to do it and I have had quite a few good finishes since then.’
Park’s best finish in the Ricoh British Women’s Open was second in 2012, followed closely by her biggest disappointment. She arrived at St Andrews in 2013 having won the Ana Inspiration, KPGM Women’s PGA and US Women’s Open, but her hopes of a fourth Major was blown away when she found herself at the wrong end of the draw, playing in the worst of the Scottish weather. Park will start as the favourite, but there are a host of in-form players ready to derail her bid for a career Grand Slam.
Among others, Park will have the likes of world number two Lydia Ko from New Zealand and English phenomenon Charley Hull to contend with, as well as fellow Koreans Jiyai Shin and Jeong Jang and American Lexi Thompson, who lifted the Meijer LPGA Classic title on Sunday.
Follow the live coverage of the Ricoh British Women’s Open starts from 14:00 to 18:00 on SuperSport 1 and CSN.
Photo credit: Catherine Kotze / SASPA