What a joy it is to welcome top-class women’s golf back to these shores. There are a couple of huge events coming up for the women’s game starting this week with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies’ Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club near North Berwick. After that, the (hopefully) securely bubbled tour will head westwards to Royal Troon for the newly named AIG Women’s Open – formerly the Women’s British Open. I must admit I’m not a fan of the decision to drop the word “British” from the title. I get that the R&A steadfastly protect “The Open” from having an adjective sneaked in there. It was, after all, called exactly that from its inception in 1860, but that is not the case with the female equivalent and, to me, dropping the word “British” robs the title of some of its gravitas. It makes me think of a club event, not one of the world’s premier women’s golf championships. Be that as it may, I’ll be glued to my TV screen nonetheless.The Ladies’ European Tour (LET) players are champing at the bit as the last tournament on their 2020 schedule was a whopping five months ago. Were it not for the timely intervention of Justin and Kate Rose, supporting wholeheartedly the fledgling idea of tour player Liz Young to provide some of the LET members with competitive play, it is conceivable that none of the European Tour players would have hit a ball in anger for almost half a year. Ring rusty doesn’t begin to describe it. As it turned out, an amazing collective effort from event managers, sponsors, clubs, players, the tour and, of course, Justin and Kate, resulted in The Rose Ladies’ Series, an eight-week run of ten competitive rounds, each on a different course. It seems, however, that nothing runs smoothly for the women and the final round over Wentworth’s famed Burma Road course had to be abandoned because of a wildfire that originated on Chobham Common. The club was more than willing to conclude the golf the following day but with the blaze raging well into the night that proved impossible and reluctantly the round had to be abandoned.
As Justin Rose said, “Our mission was to serve the ladies and provide an opportunity for them to play and sharpen up for their respective seasons. So the last thing we want to do now is create a burden for them having to fit in the final round at a later date.”
Always thinking of the players, Rose is a gold medallist off the course as much as he is on it and how fortunate are we in our sport to have a supporter of his stature. Thank you Justin.
The LPGA players on the other hand, have two full-field events under their belts – both won by Danielle Kang, a member of the defeated US Solheim Cup team on her last visit to Scotland. No doubt she will be attempting to create happier memories on this visit to the land of the home of golf. There is no question that she is the form horse at the moment – her last seven outings have yielded three victories, one second-place finish and two thirds and she is the highest-ranked American player at No 2 on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.Major winners litter the field – Ariya Jutanugarn, Hannah Green, I K Kim, Anna Nordqvist, Lydia Ko, Morgan Pressel, Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lang, Angela Stanford, Catriona Matthew, Georgia Hall, Laura Davies and current AIG Women’s Open holder Hinako Shibuno mean this will arguably be the strongest field ever assembled for a Ladies’ Scottish Open. All I want to do is jump in my car and hurtle up to The Renaissance Club but, alas, when Christina Kim feels the need to travel in a full hazmat suit, the world is telling me that that is definitely not a sensible thing to do.
Next week is the first time a women’s professional major will be held over one of my favourite courses, the links at Royal Troon. The club has already hosted the Open on nine occasions, most recently that thrilling tussle between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson in 2016. The resident pro is already warning that the course is playing much more difficult than for the men four years ago so it’s a given that the whole range of skills of these top players will be tested – another feast for those of us who love the women’s game. And another feast through the medium of a screen as opposed to having the joy of being able to attend in person.
This will be the second of golf’s majors to be played without fans or fanfare, following in the wake of last week’s PGA Championship at Harding Park. I don’t suppose Collin Morikawa cared a jot about the lack of atmosphere and paucity of watchers and perhaps the champion at Troon won’t either. The winning moments will be captured for the millions of viewers worldwide and digitally enshrined for posterity. It may well be a dream come true for someone but it won’t exactly be the picture they have nurtured and imagined in minute detail over the years. But will that really matter? Somehow I don’t think so, and I for one am delighted that Scotland is stepping into the spotlight for the next couple of weeks in support of the women’s game. Nothing could be more fitting for the Home of Golf at a time like this.