IT’S not often the temporomandibular joint crops up at a golfing press conference. And it’s probably a good job.

Merely trying to pronounce it gives you, well, a sair temporomandibular joint. “I’ve had bad TMJ problems recently, it’s been keeping me up and I only got two hours of sleep last night,” said Lexi Thompson of this anatomical thingymebob which connects your jaw to your skull and allows you to perform those routine functions of talking, chewing and yawning. “I get severe pain from grinding my teeth.”

The golf writers could sympathise. Our gnashers tend to get worn down regularly when we’re waiting impatiently for the complimentary finger buffet to get replenished in the media centre.

Loading article content

Ahead of this week’s RICOH Women’s British Open here at Kingsbarns, there is always plenty to chew over and Thompson, the world No 2, has arrived in the east neuk sitting at the highest global ranking of her seven year professional career while boasting a scoring average of 68.94.

Kingsbarns will be a step into the unknown, though, as the Fife links hosts its first major championship, but Thompson has a safe pair of hands to guide her round its various nooks and crannies in the shape of her local caddie Kevin McAlpine, the son of the former Dundee United goalkeeper Hamish.

“He’s basically told me everything,” said Thompson who has enjoyed a win and succession of runners-up finishes on the LPGA Tour since teaming up with the former Scottish Amateur champion back in March. “Stepping out here for the first time on Monday I was like, ‘I have no idea’. He has just been telling me every line and what every green does. He’s been a huge help. He is my best friend. I’ve never been so relaxed on a course and he’s definitely been a good change.”

The Thompson and McAlpine alliance endured a well-documented hiccup during the first women’s major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, when Thompson was penalised four shots for an improper marking of her ball that was picked up by a television viewer and, ultimately, cost her victory.

The 22-year-old’s response from that set back has been purposeful and profitable. A win and three second places has illustrated her competitive edge while earning McAlpine, who had a largely unfulfilling spell as a touring professional, a sizeable sum.

“One of best things about working for someone like Lexi is that you are going into any event with a chance of winning and she knows she can win,” said McAlpine. “That’s a great feeling, no matter whether you are a player or a caddie.

“Lexi was worried coming over, saying she wasn’t really a links fan,” added McAlpine of a course softened up by the summer deluges. “But I said Kingsbarns isn’t a true links course. It’s an Americanised links with wide fairways and big greens.

“She is still spinning back wedges and that is giving her a little more confidence for this week rather than having to contend with a course that is hard and bouncy.”

Thompson would lose that aforementioned ANA Inspiration in a play-off to So Yeon Ryu. The South Korean, who also captured the US Open back in 2011 is one spot above Thompson at No 1 on the world rankings and will be aiming to go a couple of places better than the third place she managed in the Women’s British Open at Turnberry in 2015.

If Ryu can become the queen at Kingsbarns this week, then it will be quite a double whammy for her coach, Cameron McCormick, who also fine tunes the game of the new men’s Open champion, Jordan Spieth.

“That would be nice,” said Ryu as she mulled over the tantalising prospect of capturing the women’s crown.

In a shimmering field of talented teens and twenty somethings, the grande dame of women’s golf, Laura Davies, is still ploughing on at the sprightly age of 53.

Dame Laura, who won the first of her four majors in the US Open 30 years ago, had to come through qualifying on Monday night to earn a tee-time for this week’s showpiece. You shouldn’t put a woman of honour through that. Thankfully, she made it and earned her 37th consecutive appearance in a championship she won back in 1986 before it had achieved major status.

Dame Laura has not recorded a top-10 on the Ladies European Tour for three years but the British Open always rouses the senses and fans the competitive flames.

If Tom Watson can come within a putt of winning the men’s Open at the age of 59 then what chances another 50-something giving it a good run here?

“I’m not saying I can win it, obviously that’s a ludicrous statement, but I think I can make the cut, have a good weekend and then you never know,” she said.

“The last time at Birkdale about three years ago, I finished ninth. Anything is possible and I’m playing better now than I was then.

“Golf is a great leveller. I’m not quite 59 as Tom was but I think you could say it would be the same sort of thing. It would be as big a shock here as when Tom was in there at Turnberry.”