The current World No.1 amateur Lydia Ko and World No.1 professional Yani Tseng pictured together at Commonwealth Golf Club in February 2011, when Tseng successfully defended the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and Ko was the leading amateur in a tie for 12th place. In 2012 at Royal Melbourne, Tseng tied for 8th, while Ko tied for 19th. Will the 15-year-old Ko be able to better Tseng this year, or will Tseng capture the title for a third time?
Nine of the world’s top twenty players lead a stellar field at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open starting Thursday at Royal Canberra Golf Club.
Headlining the morning groups are Rolex World Number 1 Yani Tseng of Chinese Taipei, American Michelle Wie and newly crowned ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open champion Lydia Ko at 9.10am off the 10th tee.
Tseng - two-time winner of the Australian Open - endured the first rough patch of her record-setting career in 2012 – a year which still included three victories.
Six weeks off including a spot of snorkelling in the Philippines and some time at home in Taiwan has her fresh for the 2013 season.
Plus a chat to her mother, Yu-Yun, back at home in Taiwan helped. The elder Tseng reminded her daughter it had been the Chinese year of the dragon in 2012. "I was a dragon, so my mum said: 'It's okay, your bad year is over. Your good year is coming this year'.''
In the other morning pairings, American Lexi Thompson, Scot Catriona Matthew and World Number 6 Korean So Yeon Ryu tee off together while Queenslander Katherine Hull-Kirk, American Brittany Lincicome and France’s Gwladys Nocera begin at 8.50am.
World Number 12 Karrie Webb, World Number 3 Stacy Lewis and defending champion Jessica Korda headline the afternoon field, teeing off the first at 12.50pm.
Lewis, who lost a playoff for the Open at Royal Melbourne last year to Korda, remains an understated figure of her country's golf, sometimes in the shadow of the media stars despite better results. "I'm not Michelle Wie. I get that, and I'm fine with that. It just gives me more motivation.''
Feisty Lewis has her eyes on the No. 1 ranking, having climbed to No. 2 last year before sliding to No. 3 late in the year behind Tseng and Na Yeon Choi of South Korea.
"My goal is to put myself in contention every week and chip away at Yani's No. 1 ranking,'' she said.
Webb will play with home advantage but said the pressure of playing at home was not as much of a factor as it had been.
“I don't know if I feel the pressure anymore. I do like playing in Australia or love playing in Australia and I do like to play well, only because the one or two times a year that I get a home field advantage with fans that are actually pulling for me harder than they’re pulling for someone from another country. That’s what I love about it. I probably put that pressure on myself just so I can have that experience with the fans and give them what they came to watch.”
Tiger’s niece Cheyenne Woods tees off with Swede Anna Nordqvist and Korean World Number 8 Jiyai Shin among other major groups in the afternoon.
A former runner-up at the Women’s Australian Open, Korean Shin won her second major championship by nine strokes in 2012 at the RICOH Women’s British Open at Royal Liverpool.
ABC1 TV will broadcast the tournament live across all four days. Thursday’s broadcast runs from 3.00PM-6.00PM (AEST).
Tickets are available online at www.ticktek.com or at the Main Entrance gate.
The 2013 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open will be played at Royal Canberra Golf Club from 14-17 February.
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