|Jessica Korda holes the winning putt in the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open last year at Royal Melbourne
The Ladies European Tour returns to Australia this week for the third tournament of the 2013 season, taking place in the country’s capital, Canberra.
A field of 157 players will be playing for a $1.2 million USD/ €937,500 purse in the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Canberra Golf Club.
It will be the club’s first time hosting the event and will be included as part of the city’s centenary celebration.
American Jessica Korda will set out this week to defend her title and to replicate her performance from a year ago. As a second-year Tour player in 2012, Korda became a first-time winner at Royal Melbourne Golf Club and did so in decisive fashion, sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a six-player playoff.
A strong field in Canberra will be fighting to take the first title of the year and to make a statement to open the 2013 season. The always dangerous Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng has seen success Down Under and is a two-time winner of the event, clinching back-to-back victories in 2010 and 2011. Tseng is coming off a three-win season in 2012 and will try to get off to another blazing start.
Another name to watch out for is amateur and teenage sensation Lydia Ko, who will is coming off of her third-professional win, at the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open last week in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Last year, at age 14, Ko captured the New South Wales Open to become the youngest player to capture any professional event and then won the CN Canadian Women’s Open to become the youngest to win a LPGA event. When she won the New Zealand Women’s Open last Sunday, she became the youngest winner on the Ladies European Tour.
Ko is paired with No. 1-ranked Yani Tseng and Michelle Wie, making her Australian debut, in the first round, teeing off from the 10th at 9.10am.
Three additional top-10 players in the Rolex Rankings will tee it up at Royal Canberra this week including 2012 Rolex Player of the Year and No. 3 Stacy Lewis, 2012 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year and No. 7 So Yeon Ryu and No. 8 Jiyai Shin.
Two players with local ties have shown their considerable skill over the past two weeks leading into the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. Australia’s Karrie Webb won the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters two weeks ago, claiming her eighth title in the event.
Webb is paired with 2012 LPGA Player of the Year Stacy Lewis and defending champion Jessica Korda in the first round on Thursday who will start at 12.50pm from the first tee.
Royal Canberra’s beauty
Royal Canberra has often drawn comparisons to Augusta National because of its wide variety of plants and trees on site and the fact that the course was built on land that once was the arboretum for the city of Canberra, much like Augusta National was developed in the 1930s on the site of a former horticultural nursery in Augusta, Ga.
Royal Canberra will play to par 73, with five par 5s, and at approximately 6,700 yards. There are three par 5s within the first six holes – two of which play less than 500 yards – on the par-37 front nine. The course’s signature hole is the dogleg right, par-4 16th which has a large elevation change from the raised landing area to the elevated green. The par-5 finishing hole, playing approximately 530 yards, has a three-tiered green.
Royal Canberra will be the 13th course to host the Women’s Australian Open. Others include Victoria Golf Club, The Australian Golf Club, Manly Golf Club, Royal Adelaide Golf Club, Yarra Yarra Golf Club, Terrey Hills Golf and Country Club, Concord Golf Club, Royal Sydney, Kingston Heath, Metropolitan Golf Club, Commonwealth Golf Club and Royal Melbourne.
Tseng’s two years at No. 1
Yani Tseng marks two years atop the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week as she has been No. 1 for 105 consecutive weeks, dating back to Feb. 14, 2011 after she won the first of two consecutive Australian Women’s Opens to move past Jiyai Shin into the top spot. Tseng’s time atop the Rankings is second only to the 158 weeks that Lorena Ochoa was No. 1 from 2007-2010.
Tseng has a 9.69 points average, ahead of Na Yeon Choi at 8.48 (not in this week’s field) and Stacy Lewis at 7.96.
Jessica Korda returned to Australia two weeks ago to play in the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters. She finished fifth in preparation for this week’s title defence.
Korda is probably looking over her shoulder at another tennis daughter who is making a name on the golf course. Korda’s father, Petr, won the 1998 Australian Open tennis title. Isabelle Lendl, a senior at the University of Florida and the daughter of former tennis great Ivan Lendl, has been invited to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship later this spring.
A few players in the field this week had a busy offseason off the golf course. Morgan Pressel is coming back in 2013 after a trying 2012 season where she was forced to endure a left thumb injury sustained in the middle of the season. Pressel married longtime boyfriend Andy Bush in January in Florida. Bush works for sports marketing firm Octagon. Amanda Blumenherst also got married. She wed Nate Freiman, whom she met while both were in school at Duke. Freiman is a first baseman in the Houston Astros organization. Katherine Hull is now Katherine Hull-Kirk. The Australian married Kansas financier Tom Kirk last August.