Scotland’s Catriona Matthew looked typically cool, calm and collected on the eve of her title defence at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
The North Berwick 40-year-old is preparing to defend the title she won 12 months ago at nearby Royal Lytham & St Annes, just 11 weeks after giving birth to her second daughter and three weeks before her 40th birthday.
Matthew is one of 144 of the world’s best players returning to the outstanding challenge of Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, Sefton, for the first time since 2005 and she said: “I’ve been really looking forward to it all year. (It’s) nice to get here and finally get out on the golf course.
“The course is in great shape. As with any links course, it’s all down to the weather. It’s pretty windy out there today so the first two holes were certainly playing pretty tough.”
Renowned for its towering sand hills, Royal Birkdale is one of England’s most illustrious courses, having staged The Open Championship nine times in 1954, 1961, 1965, 1971, 1976, 1983, 1991, 1998 and 2008.
Royal Birkdale has hosted the Ricoh Women’s British Open an impressive five times, in 1982, 1986, 2000, 2005 and 2010, as well as The Amateur Championship (1946 and 1989), the Curtis Cup (1948), Walker Cup (1951) two Ryder Cups (1965 and 1969).
England’s Laura Davies won at Royal Birkdale back in 1986 in her second year as a professional, retaining the Ladies European Tour’s Order of Merit she won in her rookie season. Now in her 26th year on Tour, she is still leading the Ladies European Tour’s Henderson Money List after two victories this season in New Zealand and Germany.
She is still enamoured with the course and said: “There’s not a bad hole out there for a kickoff, and there’s not an easy shot.
“If you’re playing good golf you can get a really good score but if you’re slightly off, the bunkers are there, pretty severe rough, the gorse, so there’s plenty to keep you occupied for every single swing. So I think that’s why it’s obviously such a great championship.”
Davies still has the photographs of her 1986 victory on her bedroom wall, adding, “good memories.”
South Korean Jeong Jang won the title the last time it was played at Birkdale in 2005, following Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson in 2000. ....more