The Ricoh Women’s British Open heads to Royal Lytham St Annes for what will be Ricoh’s final sponsorship of the event. The Japanese technology giant has sponsored the event for 12 years during which time the Women’s British Open has grown in statue adding world-class courses to the rota and seen prize money increase by $1.25 million.
Ross Hallett, Senior Vice President of golf for IMG praised Ricoh for the work they have done during the partnership saying: “This is Ricoh’s final event as our title sponsor after 12 fantastic years of working together and securing this historic Championship’s position as one of the world’s leading golf events. What started as an initial three-year partnership in 2007 has extended way beyond that. As we look back on what we’ve achieved together, we feel extremely grateful to Ricoh for their loyalty and for enthusiastically extending their commitment and expanding their contributions again and again during this period. Each of the previous 11 editions has produced great Champions and given us all great memories that will last forever.”
We can expect an announcement about a new sponsor in due course. However, for the final Ricoh Women’s British Open we can certainly expect a great send off for the longtime sponsor as In-Kyung Kim aims to defend her title that she so gallantly won at Kingsbarns.
The defending champion was in a confident mood ahead of her press conference. The ever-smiling Kim feels like she is a good place at the moment. Kim told us that: “I feel fresh, and this is my favourite golf course in the entire world. So just being here means a lot to me.”
Perhaps that is a warning sign to many. Another player who is feeling fresh is Ariya Jutanugarn. Last week’s victory at the Ladies Scottish Open was her first on a links course. The win propelled her back to World Number One and she certainly has the game to do well at Royal Lytham. The Thai favours her long irons over her driver which rarely enters her bag.
This will be her first time at Royal Lytham but already she is impressed by the course. “I was really impressed. You know, like I just played today. I didn't play yesterday.” The World Number One continued by saying, “You know, like it's so hard. Like the fairways just like pretty narrow. The bunker just like a lot of bunkers. So it's really deep. I think this course going to be really, really challenge and really need to be patient because I feel like even with no wind still going to be very tough course.”
She is not wrong, Royal Lytham St Annes is considered by many to be one of the toughest courses in England. Accuracy will be the key to success to this year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open. 206 bunkers pepper the course waiting to gobble up any stray shots. Bernard Darwin, a leading golf writer from the 1930’s probably best summed up the course when he wrote: “Hit your ball to the right place and the way to the hole is open to you, but hit your ball to the wrong place and every kind of punishment, whether immediate or ultimate, will ensue”.
The course might be tough but the competition is even tougher. There are many players who will fancy their chances at Royal Lytham. The British contingent of Charley Hull, Georgia Hall and Jodi Ewart Shadoff will all like their chances after their challenges at Kingsbarns last year.
Caroline Masson has a strong record at the Ricoh British Open. The German is putting together a solid string of results on the LPGA and could also be a threat to British hopes. Then there are the usual suspects such as Lydia Ko, Inbee Park and Anna Nordqvist who have what it takes to reign supreme at Royal Lytham St Annes.
There are of course a few notable absentees. Lexi Thompson has withdrawn from the event stating that she some time away following what has been a challenging period within her family life. Morgan Pressel failed to make it through qualifying and Paula Creamer will be nervously waiting to see if there are any last minute withdrawals as she waits in the wings as the first reserve.
As final preparations begin, the mood will undoubtedly change as Royal Lytham shows it teeth throughout the week. With Blackpool Pleasure beach on down the road, this major with have all the thrills and spills of its famous roller coasters. Some will certainly enjoy the ride and others will fear the impending drop. Either way, we are all bracing ourselves for another fantastic Ricoh Women’s British Open. For Ricoh, it will be the send-off they thoroughly deserve.