LPGA Homecoming: Ricoh’s British Open

St. Andrews is over 500-years-old and the course is considered to be the birthplace of golf. It has played host to the men 27 times since the inception of the British Open in 1873. Yet Thursday will be the first time it hosts a professional tournament for the women as the Ricoh Women's British Open presented by Weetabix gets underway from Scotland.

This is a historic event not just for golf, but for women in general. The course is also home to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which until this week was for men only and actually had a sign out front that read "No dogs or women allowed." Sounds like the type of place Michael Vick will probably be visiting very soon.

The fact that the women will be allowed to use the facilities and that the R&A museum will be dedicated to women's golf that week are huge statements. Every player that has been asked about it seems to understand this isn't just another tournament, or even just another major. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Part of the reason the Open has never been played here is that the women's version doesn't have anywhere near the history and tradition of the men's event. The Women's British Open didn't even exist until 1976, didn't become an LPGA tour event until 1994, and wasn't considered a major until 2001.

Since then it has been contested at Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham and St. Anne's, and Turnberry, all names that are very familiar to golf fans. St. Andrew's figures to be the ultimate test.

The course is setup to play 6,638 yards and to a par of 73. The famous Road Hole has been converted from a long par 4 to a 453-yard par 5, accounting for the extra stroke to par. With its seven double greens and over 100 bunkers, the course should be challenging to say the least.

If the PGA and Senior British Open's were any indication of what to expect from the women, it should make for exciting theatre and outstanding golf.

The men's British Open was won by Padraig Harrington in a four-hole playoff after he made double bogey on the 72nd hole.

Tom Watson won his third Senior British Open in the last five years, surviving a double bogey of his own on the 18th hole on Sunday to win by one shot.

The Women's British Open will not have a lack of stories to choose from this week. You can see the Open on TNT from 10 AM-noon on Thursday and Friday. Weekend coverage is on ABC from 1:30-3 PM on Saturday and 1:30-3:30 PM on Sunday. Let's take a look at the golfers to watch.

Lorena Ochoa

What she needs to do: Pretend this isn't a major. Ochoa has won nine times since the start of 2006 and finished in the top 10 in an amazing 33 of her last 41 tournaments, but she is yet to raise a trophy in a major.

What it would mean: She would shed the label of best LPGA player to not have won a major. It would also solidify her place as the No. 1 female golfer in the world.

Annika Sorenstam

What she needs to do: Play like Annika. She has focused on the majors more in recent years and lives to perform on the big stage. When on her game she is the most accurate ball striker around, which is a huge key to links golf.

What it would mean: She would keep marching towards history. A victory on Sunday would give her 70 career wins and 11 career majors.

Sherri Steinhauer

What she needs to do: Remember where she is and play her game. Three of her seven career victories have come in British Opens, and she has the type of low ball flight that is very effective on links courses.

What it would mean: She would set a record with four British Open victories and establish herself as the premier links player among the women.

Karrie Webb

What she needs to do: Draw on good memories. Like Steinhauer, Webb is a three-time British Open winner who is going for a record fourth title. She also won the first time they played the Open in Scotland at Turnberry in 2002.

What it would mean: She would join Sorenstam as the only women to win three different majors more than once and would move into a tie for sixth all time with eight major wins.

Laura Davies

What she needs to do: Let it rip. Davies has a distance advantage over everyone in the field, and the extra roll she will get on drives will leave a lot of short iron approach shots.

What it would mean: She would get the final two points she needs to gain entry into the LPGA Hall of Fame.

Paula Creamer

What she needs to do: Use her course knowledge. Creamer played four rounds on the Old Course back in April and that extra edge could prove to be the edge she needs.

What it would mean: She would get one heck of a birthday present, as she turns 21 on Sunday. It would also signal that she has truly arrived as a force on tour.

If this year's majors are any guide, put your money on Ochoa, Creamer, or another player getting a breakthrough victory. Of the six majors played so far this year on the PGA and LPGA tours, all of them have been won by players capturing their first major title.

However, something tells me that the Women's British Open will buck that trend. I can't help but have the gut feeling that someone who is used to the spotlight, but has been out of it lately will put together four spectacular rounds of links golf and walk away with the title. I am of course talking about Annika Sorenstam.

Sorenstam showed her game is back to where we are used to seeing it with a tie for sixth at the Evian Masters last week. She also understands the significance of this tournament being played on this course and has already won there, having captured the St. Rule Trophy, an amateur event, in 1990.

Expect Sunday to be the culmination of an unbelievable week for women's golf. The champion, whoever it may be, will be forever linked to a historic title.

The first woman ever to win the British Open at St. Andrew's, the birthplace of golf, is something that can't be taken away and will never be duplicated.

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