Yuka Saso, young guns eye more major success at British Women’s Open
A women’s major golf season dominated by youngsters and newcomers culminates with the BritishWomen’s 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 number one 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.
“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.
“But I have to mentally prepare myself for hitting some bad or unlucky shots. I do like the course. It is very, very nice and it will be an interesting test over the next four days.”
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.
“It is always good to have a stand-out player, someone who is known outside the golfing bubble.”
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.
“I wanted to be able to shape the ball in the wind, make my game more wholesome. I feel so much better prepared this year.
“Last year, I was trying to hit everything perfect but I have learned that it is never going to happen in tough courses.
“So you just have to take your medicine and be very patient. I am so excited about the next four days.”
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.
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