Ladies Golf Union - Ricoh British Womens Open - 1-4 August 2013
St Andrews, Old Course, Fife, Scotland
This is the 4th Major of the season for the Ladies and carries a little extra interest with the dominant InBee Park having won the prior three and thus on track for a unique and improbable 5-leg Grand Slam! From 2013 The Evian becomes the 5th Major.
To put InBee's spectacular season in context, during the past 20 years only Yani, Annika, Karrie, Juli Inkster & Se-Ri Pak have won two Majors in a single year. Nobody has won three!
This tournament, perhaps surprisingly, dates back only to 1976, becoming a co-sanctioned event with the LPGA Tour - and thus raising its profile and field strength - from 1994 and achieving Major status from 2001 when the Du Maurier Classic became a victim of Canada's tobacco sponsorship ban.
This year will be the second time St Andrews has hosted; Lorena Ochoa was the winner on the previous visit, in 2007, by four shots over Maria Hjorth & Jee-Young Lee.
The early market has InBee the clear fave at around 6.50 ahead of two-time winner Jiyai Shin & World #2 Stacy Lewis at 17.00.
Then come three experienced players who have regularly proved they're comfortable in British conditions: Paula Creamer, Catriona Matthew & Karrie Webb at 19.00 followed by the consistent pair of Suzann Pettersen & Na Yeon Choi at 21.00 or so.
No mention of Yani Tseng who has won two of the past three British Opens but who has suffered a dramatic form loss and not won since March 2012; in 2013 she is without a single Top10 since February! Yani is 50/1 with the bookies this week and starting to get a bit tempting at that sort of price! To me she looks to be frustrated and trying to hit the cover off the ball; if she can calm down and control her emotions and frustration she could easily contend in this one!
Consistent Kiwi amateur Lydia Ko, who is rumoured to be contemplating an earlier-than-expected switch to the professional ranks, is at 34.00 after a composed 17th in her first British Open appearance last year.
I don't believe InBee Park offers betting value this week. I think the pressure and publicity surrounding a possible 4th consecutive Major win, combined with the links conditions and her recent form drop-off (14th & 33rd), makes her more of a 10/1 than a 6/1 shot here.
What does one say about St Andrews that hasn't already been said?
To me, it's simply one of the most fabulous and viewable courses in the world and provides great finishing theatre if not such a serious challenge these days as equipment and technology have shortened it; the Mens course record is now 62!
Nonetheless, the wind can still blow and just three ladies finished under par on the only other occasion the Old Course was used for the Ladies Open, in 2007.
Links courses offer-up a special challenge and some players (eg Suzann Pettersen, Shanshan Feng, Angela Stanford, Beatriz Recari & Jessica Korda to name just five) look like fish out of water while playing them!
My top selection is 16-y-o Lydia Ko @ 34.00 - 36.00 (36.00 at Bet365) to win outright. Her New Zealand golf upbringing, patience and phlegmatic temperament suit her perfectly to links golf and this is her best chance to date to grab a Major title.
Additionally, she's had just 11 starts against the pro's this year and has demonstrated tremendous consistency off such a limited schedule with seven Top10's and a worst finish of 36th (US Open). Her 7th two weeks ago in the Corning, off a 3-week break, showed me she will be primed and ready for St Andrews.
My 2nd pick, for each way value, is Mika Miyazato @ 51.00 - 61.00 (61.00 at Bet365). Mika (no relation to Ai) began the year with some serious putting woes but seems to have ironed out that problem in recent months which have yielded a run of Top30's, including two Top5's.
My third, each way value, selection is another teenager, USA's 18-y-o Lexi Thompson @ 51.00 - 61.00 (56.00 at Bet365) who, like Lydia Ko, finished 17th last year on her first British sojourn.
Lexi, after a meritorious 13th at the US Open, missed the cut in the Manulife but then finished 3rd in the Corning in Ohio last time out - closing impressively at the weekend with 67:67. I expect her to tear up St Andrews any day the wind is not up.
Cheers and Good Luck with your golf punting!
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