Each year at about this time I observe from afar how much attention is paid to the men at the British Open and wonder, Why isn't the Women's British Open considered one of the LPGA's major events? The fact that it's not is quite stupid, really. There's no rule that says you can't have five majors. In fact, the R&A already lists the Women's British Open as the first of five.
People ask me whether the British should replace the du Maurier Classic, which is having sponsorship trouble. If the du Maurier ever ceased being an event, then yes, it should be replaced by the British. But we shouldn't have to wait for that to happen.
Until a few years ago I wouldn't have pushed for making the British a major. The tournament began in 1976 and had great champions like Helen Alfredsson and Patty Sheehan, but it did not become an LPGA event until 1994. Even then it was played each year at Woburn Golf & Country Club, which I have nothing against, but it's not a links course. Today the Open is being played on some of the finest venues on the men's rotation: Royal Lytham & St. Annes last year and Royal Birkdale in 2000. That's pretty impressive stuff.
This year might not be the best year to start calling the Women's British Open a major because we play Woburn again, Aug. 12-15. But next year at Birkdale would be an ideal starting point. LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw needs to take the lead on this issue. I think the players would get behind it. If you ask Sherri Steinhauer, I bet she would say winning last year at Royal Lytham was one of her finest moments—and she's won the du Maurier.
The field next month at Woburn will probably be pretty strong. It always is. If the tournament were a major, it would be stronger still, though, and the coverage for our Open would be closer to what the men got last week.