CARNOUSTIE, United Kingdom (AFP) – A women’s major golf season dominated by youngsters and newcomers culminates with the Women’s British Open at Carnoustie starting on Thursday.
Patty Tavatanakit, Yuka Saso, Nelly Korda and Minjee Lee have all become first-time major winners aged 25 or under this season, but experience could yet prove important over a tricky Scottish links course with a brutal reputation.
Korda, who became world No. 1 after her win in the LPGA Championship in June, enhanced her status as a rising star by claiming the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo last month.
Now she is preparing herself for the rather cooler climes of the North Sea coast of Scotland.
Saso, on the other hand, hopes to win her second major after her stunning win in the US Women’s Open. She is coming off a 15th place finish in the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open at Dumbarnie Links, Scotland last Monday.
”This is the most ‘linksy’ course I have ever played,” said Korda on the eve of the fifth and final major of 2021. ”It is certainly going to be a tough challenge.”
The 23-year-old, who had earlier declined formal press interviews, added: ”It was so hot in Tokyo and this week I’m expecting it to be chilly and rainy.
Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, who won the title in 2009 and is aiming to captain Europe to a second successive Solheim Cup win in the United States next month, has no doubt Korda is a blossoming talent.
”She has the potential to be a dominant force and I think that would be good for women’s golf,” said the 51-year-old home hope.
Korda has already shown form in the British Open, finishing ninth at Woburn in England two years ago, but links or coastal golf is a different matter.
Tavatanakit, one of a generation of world-class women golfers from Thailand, has specifically targeted a victory at Carnoustie.
”I played in my first British Open at Troon (another Scottish links course) last year and I didn’t do too well (Tavatanakit missed the cut) so I told my coach I needed to develop my links game,” she said.
Sophia Popov, a shock winner a year ago, has built on her Troon triumph to secure a place in Matthew’s Solheim Cup side that will be named on Monday.
”I always knew I was capable of doing well out here, and Troon proved it and gave me the perfect confidence boost,” explained Popov.
”I am going to enjoy every minute this week,” the 28-year-old German added.
Popov is also happy that having won behind closed doors last year due to Covid-19 restrictions, she will be able to defend her title in front of spectators, with 8,000 fans expected to be lining the course on each of the four days’ play at Carnoustie.