Swede Caroline Hedwall will be looking for her second victory of the season as she returns to the Finnair Masters at Helsinki Golf Club this week.
The 22-year-old rookie from Barsebäck tied for eighth at the venue last year as an amateur after rounds of 67, 71 and 70 and is now the joint favourite with Diana Luna to win.
“It feels good to know the course because this is the first course I’ve actually played on tour before. I feel pretty confident, I know my strategy and hopefully I can shoot a few low rounds and be in the top this year too,” she said.
“I just played really solid at this event last year. I could have made a few more putts during the weekend but if you’re good with your driver you get a lot of birdie chances because you have a lot of wedges into the greens.
“I think I’m playing better. I have more experience and I’m hitting the ball well, so I think I have a good chance.”
Hedwall, the 2010 NCAA champion and Player of the Year, finished first at LET Final Qualifying School for the 2011 season in December and won the New South Wales Open, an Australian Ladies Professional Golf tour event, on her pro debut in January.
At the end of May, she earned her first LET title at the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open in only her eighth start as a Henderson Rookie (top LET rookie sponsored by Henderson Global Investors).
The very next day she teed-up in the PowerPlay Golf event at Celtic Manor in Wales, alongside the likes of Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Graeme McDowell and Paula Creamer.
|From left: Jacqueline and Caroline.
Thanks to her incredible putting, she won the event and banked her biggest ever pay-cheque of £100,000, half of which she donated to the Swedish Golf Federation. To complete the eight-day magic spell, she headed straight to the Deloitte Ladies Open in Holland and tied for second, a stroke behind Melissa Reid.
A tie for seventh at the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open a fortnight ago took her up to fourth on the Ladies European Tour’s Henderson Money List and she now leads the Rolex Rookie of the Year standings with earnings of €104,972.79 from 10 tournaments.
Hedwall reflected: “I’m a rookie and I’m ranked number four right now, so it’s been a good start, for sure. Of course, winning in Slovakia was a lot of fun, but finishing second in the Netherlands the week after, I think was a good finish after going to the PowerPlay and it was a busy week, but I managed to play good golf that week too, so it was a good one.”
Although her mother caddied for her in Slovakia, Hedwall said that she is enjoying having her twin sister, Jacqueline, as her caddie. She has been on the bag since the Netherlands and will continue until the Irish Open in August.
She said: “It’s perfect. She knows when to be quiet and when to talk and it works well. She is doing her internship for her major in the States.”
Luna, who claimed her second title of the year in Switzerland a fortnight ago to lead the Henderson Money List, joins Hedwall in the 108-player field, which is the best in the seven-year history of the event.
Defending champion Lee-Anne Pace will vie for honours with the likes of Christel Boeljon, Caroline Masson, Becky Brewerton, Minea Blomqvist and Virginie Lagoutte-Clement among others.
The tournament will be played over 54 holes in the Strokeplay format from Thursday to Saturday, with a cut to the leading 50 professionals and those tied after two rounds.
In addition to the €30,000 first prize, the winner will earn a place in next month’s prestigious Evian Masters presented by Societe Generale in France, which boasts the biggest purse in women’s golf.
Moreover, the top three players in the Finnair Masters not otherwise exempt for the 2011 Ricoh Women’s British Open (but already entered) will earn full exemption into the field to play the final Major championship of the year at the challenging Carnoustie Links.