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ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open Preview
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Cheyenne Woods: last week's Volvik RACV Ladies Masters champion

This week the Ladies European Tour remains in the southern hemisphere for the ISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open at The Victoria Golf Club, situated in Melbourne’s famous sand-belt.

The third event on the 2014 LET schedule will feature a field of 156 players competing for an 888,889 euro, or US$1.2 million prize fund.

After claiming her first LET victory at the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters last week, the red-hot Cheyenne Woods will be hoping for more success in Australia.

Already quite the celebrity on social networks, Woods saw an immediate increase in followers on Instagram and Twitter including fans showing their support and congratulations. Along with the array of adoring fans, Woods received a special tweet and text message from her uncle, Tiger Woods.

“Yeah, he (Tiger) texted me after I finished playing and congratulated me and also sent out a Tweet to congratulate me,” said Woods. “So it's kind of cool that he was following along with the rest of my family.”

With the absence of Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park in Australia, both World No. 2 Pettersen and No. 3 Stacy Lewis will have the opportunity to close in on her commanding lead in the Rolex Rankings. While Lewis began her season with a runner-up finish in the Bahamas, this week will mark the start of Pettersen’s 2014 campaign. The Norwegian will look to continue the momentum she gained last season after picking-up five wins, including one major title.

Pettersen could make a significant dent into Inbee Park’s current lead in the Rolex Rankings with a solid finish this week in the sand-belt.

While Pettersen might be eyeing the top spot in the Rolex Rankings, she also has one eye completely focused on the current Winter Olympics.

“I've been up all night for the last four days, Norway's doing pretty good,” said Pettersen. “Yesterday was one of the biggest days for us, there was a little bit of a disaster but it was a very good start.  It was very neat.”

From Norway, Pettersen grew-up surrounded by an array of winter athletes including skiers and snowboarders. In fact the No. 2 ranked player on the Rolex Rankings admitted in her pre-tournament press conference to knowing the majority of Norwegian athletes currently competing in Sochi.

“I know pretty much all the Norwegian athletes who's competing, or most of them,” said Pettersen. “It's such a small country and we're a very good community kind of between the different sports so it's a lot of fun to see your friends compete, to do well, not do so well but to see the emotions and see the process they go through.  I just can't wait for Rio myself.”

Growing up in Norway, Pettersen spent a great deal of time on the slopes skiing and admitted if she could participate in one sport in the Winter Olympics, she would pick alpine downhill skiing.

“In Norway kids are born with skis on their feet or in Scotland they're born with golf clubs in their hands,” Pettersen said. “So I mean growing up, it's a national thing to do and I guess Winter Olympics is the nation's pride and honour.  If we fail here, it's national depression for months.”

Teen sensation and New Zealand standout Lydia Ko will be one to watch as she returns to Australia where she finished third in 2013. The 16-year-old, who won the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open last year to become the youngest winner in Ladies European Tour history, is feeling confident about her game after beginning her rookie season in the Bahamas with a tie or seventh followed by a second place finish in the LET’s ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open a fortnight ago.

After claiming her second-career LPGA Tour victory at the season-opening Pure-Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, Jessica Korda of the USA returns to Victoria, where she became a Rolex First-Time Winner in 2012. Korda showed nerves of steel and claimed her first-career LPGA Tour victory in dramatic fashion, sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a six-player playoff.

So Happy Together…  Paula Creamer has never competed in Australia due to conflicting dates with the tournament and friends’ weddings. While Creamer will be competing in Australia this week she is also ironically in the midst of planning for her own wedding.

“As you can see in the last couple of months, my friends get married in the off season and a lot of the times it's been around the dates of the Australian events and I haven't been able to come over,” said Creamer. “This year I'm wedding free [LAUGHS] so I was able to make the trip over.  Like I said, my 10 years out on tour, I just can't believe I have not been here. Driving through from the airport here to the city and everything, it's just so beautiful.  Hopefully one of the days I can go out and kind of venture out and see parts of it.”

Creamer got engaged during the off season and admits to beginning the 2014 season the happiest she has ever been. Her happiness was perfectly reflected in the Bahamas as she posted a tie for third finish at the season-opening event.

“They always say a happy person always plays good golf and this and that,” said Creamer. “I have been ever since I picked up a club but this is just something completely different.  I had one of the best off seasons of my life, that's for sure; when you get to get a new shiny ring on your finger, there's nothing better than that. Diamonds are a girl's best friend but the fact that I get to marry my best friend is something that is so exciting. Everybody talks about it and my friends make so much fun of me because I'm always in La-La land floating around, I'm so happy over here.”  It has, it's made a big difference in the way that I look at my life and the way I look at the opportunities and the things that I've been blessed with.  I've taken it in a new and exciting way.  Ten years out here and I'm 27-years-old, time goes by but I'm ready for the next 10.”

While most people would consider 27-years-old young, Creamer noted she is quite old compared to all the young guns just beginning their LPGA careers.

“I’m 27, I'm ancient out here, I'm old,” said Creamer with a smile. “Twenty-seven when I started, when I was 18, I thought that was young and now - gees I'm a veteran [LAUGHS]. But it is, it's the way golf is going, it's the way women's golf has been.  When I was 18 I was given so many opportunities, sponsor's exemptions and things like that, and now that's happening so much more for young girls to be around it.”

 

 

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