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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My "5 to Watch" at the RICOH

We have two majors underway this week -- the men are playing their final major of 2016, the PGA Championship, and the women are playing their fourth major, the RICOH Women's British Open. Today I'll cover the RICOH, tomorrow the PGA.

The girls are already getting into the spirit. I love this photo of Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson having tea at a party hosted by Charley Hull during the Pro-Am!

Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson have tea at a party hosted by Charley Hull during the Pro-Am

This year's Open is being held at Woburn Golf Club in Milton Keynes, England. While this is the first time it hosts the Open as a major, Woburn has hosted the non-major version of the Open (pre-2001) a whopping NINE times! So perhaps this will favor Dame Laura Davies, who was given a special invite to the event, or Karrie Webb, who won here in 1995.

The Woburn Tea Party

If you somehow missed the news, Inbee Park won't be defending her title because she's still resting her hand, hoping her thumb injury will heal in time for the Olympics.

That means we'll have a new Open champ for sure this year. Here are my "5 to Watch" this week. Don't be surprised if some of my International Crown 'winners' from yesterday's post are among them:
  • Mel Reid's performance last week very likely jumpstarted the rest of her year. The work she's done on her swing over the last few months 'clicked' last week, and that may be all she needs to contend at Woburn. And let's not forget, Mel is from England. This is a home game for her.
  • Gerina Pillar hasn't played all that well in the Open. In five attempts she has two T36s and three MCs. But this year's Gerina is a different player and, while she may not win, I look for her to play much better.
  • Although she hasn't done particularly well in the Open lately, and she hasn't had the best of years so far, I simply can't leave Catriona Matthew off this list. She won the Open in 2009, and she's only missed four cuts since 2001. Ignore the Scot at your own risk!
  • And while Karrie Webb hasn't had a great year, I chalk it up to trying too hard to make the Olympics. Now that she knows that won't happen, and after a poor showing at the Crown, I think she may freed up at Woburn. And bear in mind that she's won the Open three times since 1995 and came in second when Catriona Matthew won in 2009, so it would be no surprise if she found her game here once again.
  • My flier this week is Candie Kung, who went undefeated last week in match play. While she's been inconsistent this year, Candie has also had moments of brilliance. Unfortunately, Candie hasn't had much luck at the Open in recent years. But I'm thinking her performance at the Crown may help her overcome that lack of success.
Now, I'm not crazy. I know the money's on players like Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson, and I wouldn't be surprised if Stacy Lewis found her game at Woburn. (You may remember that she won the Open in 2013.) And it would probably be smart to take one of those players.

But I'm going with Mel Reid to win it this year. While Mel hasn't played all that well at the Open, she finished T9 last year about two months after getting her first win since 2012, the year of her mom's tragic death. I think her play at the Crown last week may have the same sort of effect this time around -- especially if the weather is good, and the extended forecast indicates that it might be.

Of course, given how unpredictable this season has been so far, it might be worth betting a few quid on the Dame as well. It's a home game for her too.

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