RICOH 2012: Setting the scene at HoylakeSeptember, 2012
What to expect from the last Major championship of the year…
From the final Major of the year you can generally expect some sort of familiarity, this year there are plenty of new variables to look forward to.
For a start there’s the course, Royal Liverpool. This will be the second successive year where a new course has been added to the Women’s British Open rota – in 2011 it was Carnoustie – and the 12th time Hoylake has hosted a Major.
The majority of the field might not have experienced the course but a few will have fond memories from their amateur days. Wales’ Becky Morgan reached the final of the British Amateur here in 1996 only to be denied by America’s Kelli Kuehne in the final – interestingly the only American to have won the title since 1984.
Hoylake has staged more men’s Amateur Championships than any other course (18) as well as the inaugural event back in 1885.
The last time Hoylake was on our radar was in 2006 when Tiger Woods took advantage of bone-hard conditions to conjure up a winning total of 18-under, just one shot shy of the four-round record aggregate.
One thing that we can be certain of, thanks to the summer that we have all endured, is the course won’t be parched. It will also see a Major take place in September in order to avoid any clash with the Olympics.
For many this will be a welcome change. Last year we had three Majors and the Evian Masters take place within a five-week period. Now, particularly coming in a non-Solheim year, the season proper has been extended to the middle of September.
But, as the LGU’s head of operations Susan Simpson explains, we shouldn’t get too accustomed to the new date.
“It won’t be a permanent thing, next year it will be August 4 and we will move again for the Commonwealth Games which is in Glasgow in 2014.
“We’re not concerned about the weather in September, more about the light and we have a two-tee start for the first time. We have a field of 144 and possibly on Saturday and Sunday, depending where the cut falls, we might have threeballs rather than the usual two.”
Simpson is back at Hoylake looking at pin positions and the state of the rough. Like everywhere else in the UK the rough is up and thick so, if it is to be trimmed back, it will have to be done well in advance.
What cannot be second-guessed is the wind come the middle of September.
Last year we were at Carnoustie, known and feared by all, but she ended up playing like an old pussy cat.
“There was not a breath of wind. I’m from Carnoustie and have played there all my life and I have not spent a week there with so little wind. Any other week of the year and it would have played very differently.
“We can move a few tees about at Hoylake and have options on four holes. Ideally we don’t want to see the winner over par as nobody wants to see lots of bogeys and we’re trying to promote the ladies’ game.”
Twelve months ago Yani Tseng finished on 16 under to ease home by four. The assumption was that we would arrive in Liverpool with the Taiwanese star having added at least one, probably two, more Majors. Three of the past four seasons she has landed one.
But this Major season has been unpredictable, to say the least, with three first-time winners. At the Kraft, Korea’s Sun-Young Yoo took advantage of one-foot missed putt by IK Kim.
Shanshan Feng then became the first player from China to win a big one at the LPGA Championship. At the US Open Na Yeon Choi was less of a surprise winner, having prevailed five times before on tour, though not many could have foreseen the ease of the victory on golf’s toughest stage.
This will be the second successive year where a new course has been added to the Women’s British Open rota – in 2011 it was Carnoustie. This year the World No.1 began the year in ominously good fashion with three wins in the first five events but has since gone off the boil.
At the Kraft she held the joint lead after three days, since then she hasn’t broken par in a Major. For a player who had five Major wins before her 23rd birthday and who was named in Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People In The World In 2012’ this was some dip.
Then again, nobody who has ever played the game has had a career without a few troughs here and there so we shouldn’t be too alarmed.
Tseng herself says that feels under a bit more pressure and has been over-thinking things and trying too hard.
There has also been the additional strain of being the best player in the world and dealing with endless media and fan requests, all of which takes time to get used to.
One thing that has changed in recent times is her caddy with Jason Hamilton making way after 16 wins together.
Tseng chose to look for a replacement from the PGA or Champions Tour so she didn’t tread on anyone’s toes on her own tour which tells us something about the youngster.
In Hamilton’s place comes a South African, Basil van Rooyen, who has previously handed clubs to John Daly and Mark McNulty.
At the top of the Money List tree instead sits Stacy Lewis. The 27-year-old has developed into the strongest American challenger and this year has been the very definition of consistency with 10 top-10 finishes in 15 starts.
One thing that has motivated Lewis in recent times is the lack of recognition she has received, compared to the likes of Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr. Now she is the No 2 player in the world.
While Tseng might have the pick of the Open form with back-to-back wins, Lewis has little to offer with only three starts which include a missed cut and nothing better than a tie for 11th.
But she is a very different player now – more patient, with a better attitude and in the top three for Greens In Regulation and putts per GIR.
Not surprisingly she also has more birdies than any other player. She also has a Major having gone head to head with the World No 1 at the 2011 Kraft.
Defending champion Tseng began the day mockingly lifting the trophy on the 1st tee. Lewis ended the day with it in her grasp after a three-shot win.
Britain and Ireland’s greatest hope looks to be, as it has been for the past few years, a 43-year-old Scot and mum-of-two Catriona Matthew.
We all remember her at Lytham three years ago but that win was founded on an upbringing at North Berwick and a host of amateur titles on links courses. She is also bang in form with victory in Ireland last month.
Twenty years ago Hoylake also staged the Curtis Cup where Great Britain & Ireland squeezed home with Catriona Lambert (now Matthew) part of the ranks.
Maybe, after all, there will be a little familiarity.
Let’s hope so.
PLAN YOUR VIEWING
Thu & Fri Sep 13/14
1300-1800 BBC2 + HD
Sat Sep 15
1430-1630 BBC1 + HD
1630-1730 BBC2 + HD
Sun Sep 16
1400-1730 BBC2 + HD
Check local listings for any changes