Sunday 18 March 2018

Coakley desperate to impress on home stage

Suzann Pettersenwill be hoping to get off to a good startwhen she begins her defence of the AIB Ladies Irish Open at KiIleen Castle today
Suzann Pettersenwill be hoping to get off to a good startwhen she begins her defence of the AIB Ladies Irish Open at KiIleen Castle today
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

A truly international field tees off today in round one of the €500,000 AIB Ladies Irish Open at Killeen Castle, but Norway's Suzann Pettersen has the credentials to win for Europe on the Solheim Cup 2011 course.

Pettersen, winner at Portmarnock Links two years ago, is ranked fourth in the world and is the highest-placed of the 10 players from the top 30 who play this 54-hole tournament.

She has the class and the length off the tee to put herself into strategic positions and then it's a case of hoping her putting stroke is on song as she bids for the €75,000 first prize.

The only concern for her is a hip problem, but she is determined not to allow that affect her game this week. "I'll get through these three days," she said.

Her plan of attack?

"Driver every hole and try to stiff it when you have short irons in your hand," she replied.

The course is set up for a par-72 at 6,304 yards and its main defence is the character of the undulating greens. "It's pretty wide open, to be honest. I think the back-nine has a bit more character than the front," said Pettersen.

"Right now the rough isn't up so the greens are undulated, but that's what you expect from a Jack Nicklaus golf course. That's his style.

"The wind obviously makes this course tough. Yardage-wise it's fairly short, but with these conditions and the wind, it's playing a good whack."

In total, there are 17 USA and European Solheim Cup players here and 24 of the top 25 in the European Henderson Money List, which illustrates the strength in depth of the field.

Italy's Diana Luna is back to defend the title she won at Portmarnock Links last year.

For Ireland, the professionals competing are Rebecca Coakley, Hazel Kavanagh, Martina Gillen, Tara Delaney and Claire Coughlan-Ryan.

The ILGU amateurs who will relish the opportunity to test their quality against some of the world's top professionals are Curtis Cup players Danielle McVeigh and the 15-year-old Maguire twins, Leona and Lisa.

Leona plays alongside Pettersen and England's Melissa Reid, starting off the 10th tee at 8.20 this morning. Lisa is playing with European legend Laura Davies, a two-time Irish Open winner, and Australia's Katherine Hull, who was runner-up in the Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale last week.

That group tees-off at 1.40 from the first tee today. McVeigh has a 1.30 start off the first tee with world No 9 Anna Nordqvist of Sweden and Germany's Anja Monke.

Coakley knows the course pretty well as she has played and practised here frequently in the last couple of years.

At No 48 in Europe, she is the highest-ranked Irish player and is hoping for a good performance, but appreciates that playing in her national Open brings a tad extra pressure.

"I'd be lying if I said it didn't, especially when you have family and friends coming out to watch you. Everybody wants you to do well," she said.

"But the great thing is they don't put pressure on me. I suppose the only pressure is that you really want to do well for them as well as yourself. My game is good. I'm striking the ball well and the putter is nearly there."


The US challenge is strong, with nine players, including five Solheim Cup 2009 'caps' Christina Kim, Kristy McPherson, Brittany Lang, Angela Stanford, and Brittany Lincicome.

Lincicome, Stanford and McPherson took time out go sightseeing and visited the Guinness Storehouse and watched 'Riverdance' at the Gaiety.

But today it's down to business and Lincicome is confident about her chances.

"This course is very challenging, but it's a great layout," she said. "Keeping the ball in the fairway is the key for me. If I can do that, I feel I can score very well out here."

Irish women's Open,

Highlights, RTE 2, Sky Sports 3, 11.30

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport