Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Weetabix British Open preview

The fourth and final major of the year. Can Karrie Webb take her second major of ’06 and take charge in the race for Player Of The Year honors? Or will Annika Sorenstam restake her claim to that title by pairing this championship with her US Open victory?

If the words “British Open” weren’t on the banner, you’d be hard pressed to convince me this is a Major. The entire purse is $1.8 million – last week’s Evian Masters’ purse is 67% larger! Granted the LPGA Championship and the Nabisco are both $1.8 million and I’m not going to question their major status, but the Match Play and the Michelob Ultra both pay better than three of the four “majors”. With all the shakeups Ms. Bivens has given the LPGA lately, you’d think this oddity would be a “major” concern.

Jeong Jang won last year’s Weetabix by 4 shots over Sophie Gustafson. That event was held at Royal Birkdale in Merseyside (must be near Liverpool, eh?). This year they’ll be teeing it up at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, a par-72 6463-yard course at Lancashire. It was most recently the site of the men’s Open Championship in 2001. David Duval won that event and quickly faded from sight. Hopefully this week’s winner will not suffer that same fate. The course is your typical British venue – links course, with those big pot bunkers and rough that would swallow Mi Hyun Kim alive (if she ever were to miss the fairway – hasn’t done that too much lately). The course is about average in length, so the long hitters shouldn’t dominate. But if the bombers paid attention to Tiger’s strategy at Royal Liverpool two weeks ago and play a lot of long irons and 5-woods to avoid the trouble, they could fill up the leaderboard.

Jang obviously knows how to play the links. Michelle Wie wound up tied for third last year after a rough first round. Kerr and Gulbis both finished in the Top Ten a year ago. But my pick to win this week is Mi Hyun Kim. She missed the cut by one shot last year, but she’s been playing great and her putting is the best on tour right now. My CYA picks are Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam.

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