Ricoh Women’s British Open 2013
The famous course in Fife, Scotland, St. Andrews, is going to see a lot more women next month than it ordinarily does. St. Andrews has hosted the Women’s British Open once before, and it was an unusual and refreshing sight to see Lorena Ochoa stand in the winner’s circle at the home of golf.
Most would say that this is where the game began. Golf was played on the famous piece of Scottish turf in the early 15th century before a ban on golf took effect, so that young men would pay more attention to their archery skills.
One might think that St. Andrews is an exclusive club among the exclusives, but thanks to an Archbishop in 1552, it was designated as a public course. It has led many of the game’s changes through the centuries, and sports many interesting milestones. 1873 marks the first time that the men’s Open was played over an entire 18 holes. In 1895, the tournament was expanded to two days, and to three days in 1905. 1921 marks the year in which the first American won the tournament, but the rise of American golf didn’t really cause much of a stir at that time – the winner, Jock Hutchison, was born in Scotland. The game was safe. In 1995, Tiger Woods played in his first St. Andrews event, and the perspective of golf from medieval kings to the modern phenomenon of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is an interesting one.
All in all, the grand “Old Course” has hosted twenty eight world-wide championships, and still represents some of the most interesting challenges on any of the tours, with its rough terrain and belligerent weather. St. Andrews, however, is not where the qualifying is done. The pre-qualifying rounds are played at the Berkshire Golf Club, with the final qualifying stage to be played at the Kingsbarn Golf Club. By all appearances, neither course gives one much of a look at what lies ahead in Fife. They seem smartly tailored, more gentile than the feisty, ancient course with the exotic buildings we enjoy so much on the broadcasts.
Another unusual aspect of St. Andrews is the way in which it doubles up with itself. Seven of the greens serve as the arrival point for two holes. The “Road Bunker Hole” is a sobering experience, a yawning green-front bunker, and the road behind can take a golfer out of the county if he or she gets a good bounce.
So, what will it be next month, a fourth straight major for Inbee Park, the resurgence, perhaps, of Yani Tseng, or will an unknown emerge unexpectedly? Tseng is pursuing her third win here, so the tournament seems to fit her nicely. It doesn’t seem to matter where, or under what conditions Ms. Park plays. She just, as the song goes, just keeps rolling along. In fact, she cites the golf course as the one place where she is totally relaxed, free from outside pressures. That would have to constitute part of her success. Of course, there’s the home favorite, Catriona Matthews, who has played extremely well of late, and probably has an edge on local knowledge.
August 1 is the date, and the whole field will be there. The atmosphere couldn’t be more interesting, with the ancient meeting the new. The presence of women on the male-only environment spikes the interest, and whatever the LPGA’s view of what constitutes a major, this is definitely one of them. It’s not really part of the argument.