Two of the leading British challengers at this week’s AIG Women’s Open have been given the opportunity to lay down early markers in esteemed company following the draw for the opening two rounds.
Charley Hull, the highest-ranked British player in the field, and 2018 Champion Georgia Hall are among the morning starters at Royal Troon on Thursday, teeing off at 7:47am and 8:09am respectively.
Both players have been grouped with high-class rivals, with Hull joined by two former AIG Women’s Open winners in Ariya Jutanugarn and Stacy Lewis, and Hall playing alongside the players ranked fourth and fifth in the Rolex Rankings, Nelly Korda and Nasa Hataoka.
Those two groups are sure to command plenty of attention on Thursday morning, when they go out either side of another high-profile trio in Minjee Lee, Azahara Munoz and Amy Yang.
All of the players teeing off early on day one will be particularly eager to make a strong start given the forecast for Friday, which predicts persistent rain and rising gusts in the afternoon.
And the nature of Troon’s layout, which typically sees eight of the first nine holes played with a supporting wind before the majority of the back nine plays into the prevailing breeze, makes it even more important for challengers to hit form immediately on Thursday.
Lewis, who won the AIG Women’s Open at St Andrews in 2013, will be confident of dealing with any tricky conditions after providing a timely reminder of her ability on links courses when triumphing in last week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open.
“I’m just excited the way I’m hitting it,” said the American. “Links golf, you’ve got to be able to control your golf ball in the wind I did a pretty good job of that for four days.”
If the worst of this week’s weather does ultimately sweep in on Friday afternoon, it may prove beneficial for the defending Champion and the most in-form player in the game.
Hinako Shibuno, who won in memorable fashion at Woburn in 2019, is out at 12:49pm on Thursday and 8:09am on Friday alongside Ashleigh Buhai, her playing partner in last year’s final round, and Brooke Henderson.
Also facing a quick turnaround is Danielle Kang, the world number two who was looking for her third successive LPGA Tour title last week, eventually finishing just one shot outside a play-off at the Ladies Scottish Open. Kang will look to continue her red-hot form in the company of Lydia Ko, who she pipped to victory in the Marathon Classic, and Yu Liu of China.
Although she did not quite manage a third straight victory, Kang was thrilled with her performance last week.
“I definitely was better tee to green than I ever was (before) at links, so I’m really proud of how I’m playing,” she said.
“It was a good week. I hit some great shots out there and I think I got a little bit of a good feel for links. I’m really excited to play the first major of the year.”
Other notable afternoon starters on day one include Morgan Pressel, Carlota Ciganda, Lexi Thompson, Inbee Park and Bronte Law.
To see a full list of tee times for rounds one and two, click here.