Women's British Open
This week sees the final major of the golfing year - the 2012 Women's British Open. Here's our guide...
Last Updated: 13/09/12 3:37pm
The course - Royal Liverpool, Hoylake
Last seen on the major tour rota hosting the 2006 Open Championship, when Tiger Woods famously won without using driver, it will also host the 2014 Open so this is a good opportunity to see what has changed in the mean time. The answer is - "quite a bit."
The course has been toughened up for the pros. Interestingly this process has seen the number of bunkers reduced, but features such as uneven rough, new tees and re-shaped greens have been added.
Mikko Ilonen won the 2000 Amateur Championship on the course and also finished in the top 20 in the 2006 Open. The conditions were soft for the former and bone-hard for the latter. The Finn says that however it plays this week the key is to be aggressive from the tee: "Hit it long and shape it!"
The new date and conditions
Why mid-September? The answer is that it isn't a long term change. Instead it is a sensible response to the clash of dates with the London Olympics. Will it change the way the event is played however? Links golf is so unpredictable that isn't going to be the case. But bad weather is on the cards.
Last year the Ladies Golf Union was afraid that Carnoustie in bad weather would cause carnage and made the set-up a little easy. However the weather was lovely and the week played out with little difficulty.
This year the incessant rain has left every links course in the country with thick rough and Royal Liverpool is no different. It looks greener than it did in 2006 and is playing very narrow. Missing fairways is proving penal.
Two words: Yani Tseng. She was runner-up in 2008, won it in 2010 and won it again in 2011. Can she complete the hat-trick? In theory you'd say why not because she is still the world number one, but something is wrong with her form and he stats say it is her long game. Given that is her great strength the chances are she'll come up short this week.
Another player with good recent event form is the current US Women's Open champion Na Yeon Choi who has made the top ten in each of the last three years.
One player stands out: Sweden's Sophie Gustafson who has five top three finishes on links courses in this event. Another quality performer by the seaside is Jiyai Shin who has never finished outside the top 30 in the event. She has said that traditional golf courses fit her eye and she won last week's two-day play-off in the Kingsmill Championship so might be getting back to the form that saw her reach number one in the world rankings.
An outsider to keep an eye on is Sweden's Caroline Hedwall. Since turning professional last year she has dominated the LET, winning five times in her last 16 starts on that tour. After a fine Solheim Cup debut she looked ready to transfer that form to the LPGA but injury intervened. She made her first start in a while last week in Austria and won. Her strong long game could suit the Hoylake challenge.
Less impressive in this event is Norway's Suzann Pettersen who has not made one top ten in ten attempts. What's more her form this season has been below her best.
There are three young players worth watching out for this week, each from a different corner of the world.
The first is Scottish 20-year-old Carly Booth who took some time to get to grips with professional golf, but once she got one win, two more quickly followed. That first win came on the LET feeder tour, she then added the Scottish and Swiss Opens on the main tour. She has links with Liverpool - her mum is from the city, her dad worked at the Cavern with the Beatles and Booth is a massive Liverpool FC fan. She's also the girlfriend of European Tour winner Tano Goya.
If Booth is young, Lydia Ko is very young. The New Zealander is the world amateur number one, but that doesn't tell half the story. Last month she stunned the golf world to win the LPGA's Canadian Open. The ease with which she did it was astonishing and she became the youngest winner of a professional event ever.
American Lexi Thompson completes the trio. She has victories on both the LET and LPGA at the tender age of 17. Her game has been up and down this year but her ability to hit the ball a long way and also hit lots of greens might work. The flipside is that it will be her debut in the event.
In their own words
Michelle Wie: "I've heard about how Tiger didn't hit a single bunker here, and that's definitely motivation for me to not go in a bunker. I went in one today and you just really have to go out sideways. You can't go for the green at all."
Ai Miyazato: "We've seen the wind change during practice rounds so the golf course is going to be not the same every day. You have to change the game plan every day, and you have to play really smart out there. It's going to be really difficult."
Stacy Lewis: "I think it's definitely the hardest Open course I've played. I've only played one round, so it's kind of hard to tell but I think it's by far the hardest. You have to hit it well off the tee and the bunkers are definitely a penalty."
Sophie Gustafson (via twitter @sophiegustafson): "If you don't like the weather here at Hoylake, just wait 5 minutes ... Guaranteed to change. Going from lashing down to sunny in 10 seconds ... Links golf, curry and warm beer. Can life get any better?"