Golf: Women's British Open set for latest Ko-Henderson battle

Lydia Ko (left) and Brooke Hendersen are set to go into the British Open for another head-to-head battle.
Lydia Ko (left) and Brooke Hendersen are set to go into the British Open for another head-to-head battle.PHOTOS: AFP

WOBURN, England (AFP) - Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson - ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the world - are two teenagers enjoying the time of their lives in women's golf ahead of the Women's British Open on Thursday.

New Zealander Ko, 19, holds two of the five Major titles - the Evian Championship and ANA Inspiration - and Canadian Henderson, five months younger, claimed her first at the Women's PGA Championship in Seattle last month, beating Ko in a play-off.

They go into the British Open at Woburn set for another head-to-head battle.

Then it will be on to the Olympic Games in Rio and, while many of the top men have controversially pulled out, the duo are relishing the sport's comeback to the Games.

"I respect everyone's opinion and everybody that pulled out," said Henderson, who will turn 19 in September.

"There's a lot of stuff going on in Rio that we can't really control.

"The Zika virus, health issues, political issues, whatever it is. But, at the same time, it's the Olympics.

"They are going to try and do everything they can to make it safe for us, the athletes. I don't plan on venturing anywhere.

"Just go to Rio, stay at the Olympic Village, go the golf course and come home. Nothing crazy. It's an opportunity of a lifetime to go down there and experience it for the first time."

She did admit she had fleetingly had doubts about taking part.

"We were on the fence a little bit," she continued.

"We wanted to make sure we had all the information because it was a bit scary. But we're set to go and looking forward to it."

Ko, already a 14-time winner on the LPGA Tour, is also positive about Rio.

"I'm super excited," she said. "Ever since they announced that golf would be in the Olympics I wanted to get to Rio. I would love the chance to be an Olympian.

"I think this is a way that a lot of junior fans and people outside golf can get an interest in it.

"It is a great step forward. Hearing some of the guys pulling out is unfortunate, but you have to understand where they are coming from.

"But, on the girls' side, I think we are all excited. I think there are a lot of positives. It's not as though there is no-one playing from the men's side.

"For some of them, it's about growing a family so it's hard to say it's wrong what they are doing.

"It's quite hard to hear about Zika and I think we all have to understand where each player is coming from and we all have to respect it."

The two young stars are looking forward to the challenge of Woburn - a course that last staged the Women's British Open in 1999 when American Sherri Steinhauer claimed back-to-back wins.

That was two years before the championship gained major status.

Henderson made her British Open debut at Turnberry last year, and finished well down the field.

"But this is a parkland course. It's not the traditional links and it's a little like the one where I won my first Major and my other two LPGA titles," she added.