Laura Davies has been waiting at least 10 years to play a Women’s Open Championship at Royal Troon. That’s why it’s fitting she’ll hit the opening tee shot in this week's AIG Women's Open.
Davies probably thought this day would never come.
Ten years ago, England’s greatest woman golfer expressed her desire to follow in the footsteps of the world’s best men and play the same courses on the Open Championship rota. Davies has played Women’s Opens at St Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool, Turnberry and Royal Lytham & St Annes. Royal Troon seemed a million miles away a decade ago. Ditto for Royal St George’s and Muirfield.
Unfortunately, the then all-male policies of these three seemed to make it unlikely the top women would ever grace their fairways. That didn’t stop Davies daydreaming.
“I want us to go to Troon, Muirfield, to the same links the men play,” Davies told me during the 2010 Ricoh Women’s Open at Birkdale. “I don’t want to go to inland courses. This is a British Open and should be played on links courses.”
Davies wasn’t alone. Fellow Englishwoman Mel Reid wanted to experience the same challenges as the men in her home Open.
“I want to go where the men go,” Reid said. “I’m looking forward to Carnoustie and Hoylake. I want the same challenge as the men. It should definitely be a links. It’s the whole history of the British Open. I don’t think it would be the same if it wasn’t a links. Speaking to the girls, especially the Americans, they love coming here and facing the challenge of a links. We play parkland golf 26 weeks a year.”
I was baffled by Davies and Reid’s desire to go to the all-male enclaves. I couldn’t for the life of me see why the top women would want to go to venues that wouldn’t accept them as members. Their desire had nothing to do with politics, just the challenge of taking on the world's best courses. Davies said so in her own inimical style:
“Troon would be nice. So would Muirfield. The men only thing doesn’t bother me. I’m not political. I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about all that stuff. It’s all about the golf course. They are great courses so why wouldn’t you want to play them?”
Reid echoed that thought.
“It’s all about the golf course and the challenge. It’s not about the politics. I think Muirfield, St George’s and Troon would be fantastic venues for us to play.”
Thankfully, both will get one third of their wish this week as Troon hosts its first women's major. Considering Royal St George’s hosted a women’s professional event recently for the first time, one of the Rose Ladies Series tournaments, it’s a pretty safe bet it will hold a Women’s Open soon too. Ditto for Muirfield.
Davies will hope those courses get on the rota while she can still peg it up with the youngsters.
Of course, there’s another reason Davies will relish playing in the first group in the opening round. The four-time major champion is one of the fasted players in the game. She’ll set a pace hopefully the slowpokes will follow so we have none of the shenanigans that took the shine off Stacey Lewis’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open victory.
Oh, if only Davies were in charge of pace of play. Now there’s an issue she cares deeply about. She's steadfastly refused to play practice rounds for years precisely because they take too long. She’d soon turn the turtles into hares if she had her way.
Europe's Cup runneth over too
Much has been made of PGA Tour's plethora of young talent. Quite right too. The future looks bright with Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland, Cameron Champ and others strutting their stuff on American fairways.
Europe isn't too far behind. Sam Horsfield currently leads the pack. His Celtic Classic victory was his second win in three weeks. Don't expect the Ian Poulter protégé to stop there.
Horsfield has a lot of competition. The European Tour also has an embarrassment of riches in young talent. The likes of Robert MacIntyre, Matthias Schwab, Renato Paratore, Thomas Detry and Rasmus Højgaard look like the future of European Golf. Add Hovland's name to that list and we have some exciting Ryder Cups to look forward too. (Did I mention Jon Rahm?)
#JustSaying: “Most people make everything far too complicated, in life as well as golf. You can pick up a club and just get on with it.” Laura Davies
Thanks to the Ladies European Tour for the Davies photo. Horsfield photo by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour