CARNOUSTIE - Defending champion Yani Tseng believes she will have to be at her creative best to master the links course at Carnoustie and claim a fifth major title at the Women's British Open.
The top-ranked Tseng heads the LPGA money list and is full of confidence heading into the year's fourth and final major, after her victory at the LPGA Championship last month.
"There are so many ways you can play this course, you can be aggressive, you can be safe, you can hit driver, you can hit iron," the 22-year-old Taiwanese player said. "You've just got to use your imagination and hit creative shots."
Tseng was paired with American Morgan Pressel and Ai Miyazato of Japan in a high-profile grouping for the first two rounds.
Last year at Royal Birkdale, Tseng led from the start, with 68s in the first three rounds before closing with a 73 to clinch victory.
"I love the links courses. I'm so excited to be here and I just can't wait to go out tomorrow," Tseng said. "It's a very, very fun course for me. I have so many good memories of the British Open so I'm just so excited to be here."
Charlottetown's Lorie Kane, Hamilton's Alena Sharp and Stephanie Sherlock of Barrie, Ont., are in the field.
Miyazato, winner of the Evian Masters in Paris last week, will be one of the favourites alongside Tseng to win the title on Sunday. The sixth-ranked Miyazato said she would be ready for the challenge of Carnoustie.
"This is the British Open. The wind is going to pick up and it will be raining I'm pretty sure," she said. "I feel very confident and I feel comfortable. You can't control the wind and the rain you just have to play the golf course as it is on the day."
Michelle Wie of the U.S., whose sixth-place finish at this year's Kraft Nabisco Championship was her best performance at a major since 2006, said that she is still working on mastering her long putter coming into Carnoustie.
"I decided to make the change the week after the Open back home," Wie said. "I'm obviously just trying it out, different grips and different ways to do it. I thought it was time for a change. I'm a pretty tall person so I thought I would give it a try.
"This is a pretty unique golf course. The greens are pretty bumpy and slopey, which make it difficult. So it will be a challenge for me this week."
Wie's compatriot Paula Creamer may have stolen a march on the field having travelled to Carnoustie before the Evian for a couple of practice rounds.
"I had a local caddie, the club champion, and played with the pro and I really learned a lot," the 2010 U.S. Open champion said. "I love links golf, this tournament and this golf course. I feel I can play well here.
"I like the challenge, in fact the harder the better. I believe it's going to rain tomorrow. I want it to be blowing and bouncing during the tournament."
For the 2009 champion, Catriona Matthew, Carnoustie is like coming home.
"I played a lot here as an amateur ... so I know it very well," said the Scot, who won at Royal Lytham two years ago, 10 weeks after giving birth to her second daughter and three weeks before her 40th birthday.
"It's a tough test, but like any links course it depends on the wind. If there's no wind none of them are overly difficult," Matthew said. "If you can drive the ball well you'll have a lot of birdie chances out there. Keep out of the bunkers and you've got a great chance."
One of the top home hopes is Melissa Reid of England, winner of the Dutch Open in June and currently fourth on the European Tour money list.
"I certainly feel my game is more mature than it was a year ago. My swing feels a lot better and I feel very calm this week," Reid said. "This is definitely one of the top five courses I have played and I feel quite settled here."
Follow us on Twitter: