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Golf: Champion Shin Jiyai relishing defence challenge

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

With two victories in five years at the Women's British Open it is not surprising that South Korea's Shin Jiyai describes it as her all-time favourite tournament.

But she admitted that it would be extra special if she could stage a successful defence of the title over the Old Course at St Andrews.

A winner for the first time as a teenager at Sunningdale in 2008, Shin battled through wind and rain to repeat the feat at Royal Liverpool a year ago.

"I played in the British Open here in 2007 (she finished tied 28th) and it's great to be back," she said.

"Last year was the worst weather I have ever encountered and I just hope it is a bit better this week.

"One thing I remember about the Old Course is the number of bunkers and the long putts. I think I had a birdie putt that was 65 yards last time.

"But this is such a special place and I'm always happy to play here."

Shin's defence has been overshadowed by compatriot and world number one Park Inbee's bid to become the first golfer to capture four majors in one calendar year.

"Inbee is playing so well," acknowledged Shin.

"She just seems to be so comfortable. She''s a real inspiration to us all."

Catriona Matthew, who partners Shin in the first two rounds, is hoping that the home crowd will be her inspiration.

The 43-year-old became the first Scot to win a major at the 2009 Women's British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes and she is having a great season.

She came close to stopping Park's major sweep at the LPGA Championship in June -- just losing out in a play-off.

Matthew, from North Berwick, east of Edinburgh, has twice won the St Rule Trophy at St Andrews as an amateur and she reckoned she has played the famous Old Course about 40 times.

"Obviously, for me to win at St Andrews and beat Inbee would be a huge deal," said the world No.12.

"I've played well in all the majors this year and I'm really excited about the week.

"If Inbee does win it would be unbelievable. Tiger Woods did it (won four successive majors) but not in a calendar year and it would be a phenomenal feat. It's something that might never be repeated."

Matthew and Park both tied for seventh at the 2007 Women's British Open at St Andrews -- both are hoping for a place in history as the 2013 champion.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130731/golf-champion-shin-jiyai-relishing-defence-challenge