World No. 1 So Yeon Ryu will start the 2017 Ricoh Women’s British Open as the firm favourite but that is not a billing that is likely to phase the South Korean star. There is very little that ruffles Ryu which is no surprise given the outstanding form that has taken her to the pinnacle of the women’s game this season.
Ryu’s season on the LPGA Tour started with a second place finish at the Honda LPGA Thailand and since then she has won twice, at the ANA Inspiration and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, and amassed a further seven top-ten finishes in her eleven other starts. She has also developed into something of a Ricoh Women’s British Open specialist having finished tied-5th in the wind and rain at Turnberry in 2015 and tied-eighth in the more benign conditions down south at Woburn 12 months ago.
“I have been playing well in the major tournaments this year and want to win more no matter what,” she said after completing her final practice round.
“It’s a kind of weird feeling being No. 1,” she added. “It’s always something I’ve dreamt about, so I was happy about, it but now it just feels normal. Maybe I have more interviews. I’ve got more focus on me, but I’m still looking to achieve the same things. It doesn’t really feel different to before.”
The other in-form player coming into the fourth women’s Major of the year is American Lexi Thompson who has quietly moved up to No. 2 on the Rolex Ranking on the back of an equally impressive run highlighted by win at the Kingsmill Championship and five runner-up finishes, including three in her last five starts.
Thompson’s move up to second place on the Ranking behind Ryu came as a bit of a surprise to the player herself.
“I don’t follow the Rankings at all,” she admitted. “My Dad told me because he watches a little bit more but it’s good because it shows how well I’ve been playing.
“I feel good,” she added. “I love the golf course. It’s a great lay-out and I get to hit a good amount of drivers which is nice.”
Local Scottish fans may be interested to learn Thompson also has a secret weapon on her bag in the shape of former Scottish Amateur champion, Kevin McAlpine, who has been working as her caddie during her recent run. For many years, Kevin’s father, Hamish, kept goal for local Scottish league side, Dundee United.
“Having Kevin caddie out here is a huge help,” she said. “Stepping foot out here the first time on Monday, I was like, I have no idea. I mean, there could be a bunker over that hill, I don’t know. So, he was just telling me every line and what every green does hitting the shots into them, so it’s been a huge help. He knows the course very well.”
One player who has struggled to find her best form of late but cannot be discounted is Lydia Ko who missed the cut at last week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Ladies’ Open but who believes she is not far from re-finding the form that took her all the way to World No.1.
“I feel like the puzzle pieces are there but sometimes trying to put them together is the hardest thing,” said Ko, who finished tied third the last time the Championship was staged in Scotland in 2015. “I would love to have my name on the trophy one day, but I know it would need four really consistent, great golfing days for that to happen.”
2009 champion, Catriona Matthew, and English Solheim Cup player, Charley Hull, are the main home hopes but there will also be a huge amount of interest in veteran 53-year-old Dame Laura Davies, who makes a record 37th consecutive appearance after coming through a play-off at Final Qualifying.
Davies made it clear it never crossed her mind not to travel north to try to qualify.
“No, I’ll try and qualify for this tournament until I can’t do a good job and represent myself well,” she said. “It’s my favourite tournament of the year, and I want to play in it as many times as I can.
“Realistically, my goal is to make the cut and then see what happens,” she added. “My results haven’t been good but, the way I’m playing, it’s a lot better than the way I’m scoring. One of these weeks, the scoring is going to represent the shot-making. Hopefully it will be this week. I’m not saying I can win it. Obviously, that’s a ludicrous statement but I think I can make the cut and have a good weekend and then you never know.”