Webb, Davies headline Australian Open
BY Bruce Young | ALPG Tour | 2008 Women's Australian Open | Preview | 30 Jan 2008
The return of the $500,000 MFS Women’s Australian Open to tournament golf in Australia last year proved a significant success at the outstanding Royal Sydney Golf Club and with the event being played at Melbourne’s Kingston Heath in 2008, the elevation in status of the event continues.
Kingston Heath is generally considered Australia’s number two golf course after its near neighbour, Royal Melbourne, and is sure to offer an outstanding test for this field. It is perhaps a shame that the field does not match the quality of the venue, with only five players from the world’s top fifty lining up but the event is in a rebuilding process and hopefully things will improve in the coming years.
The presence of the world number three, Karrie Webb, however will ensure much local interest as the Queenslander looks to repeat her emphatic six shot victory of last year and continue her domination of local tournaments. Next week Webb looks to win the ANZ Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast for the seventh occasion while this week she will attempt to become the national champion of her own country for the fourth occasion.
Webb has talked this week, as she often has, of the struggle to enjoy herself on the golf course. Soon after winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2006, her first win for nearly two years, the now 33-year-old discussed her desire to enjoy the game more rather than just endure it. With that new found attitude she would go on to win five more times in 2006 and trail only the brilliant Lorena Ochoa at year’s end. By the end of 2007 after an LPGA season in which she did not win any events and finished 22nd on its money list, she was again in a frame of mind where she wasn’t enjoying herself.
In 2008 it now seems that Webb will further restrict her schedule to allow her to play in only the events and only on the golf courses she enjoys with a view to creating longevity in her career.
Webb has shown on numerous occasions over the years that, refreshed from a break with her family in North Queensland and after time away from competitive golf, she has an almost Tiger like capacity to compete without the need for warm up tournament play. Tournament organisers will hope that she can again produce that sort of form as, just as it was when Greg Norman dominated the male game in this country, having Webb in contention is a key ingredient to the success or otherwise of this or any female event in Australia.
Ji-Yai Shin is the second highest ranked player in the field at number seven and the woman who dominated women’s golf in Korea in 2006 was the only non USLPGA Tour player at the end of 2007 inside the top ten in the world. There is little doubt that the still 19-year-old could challenge Webb for her title this week and advance her cause as one of the game’s brightest prospects. Shin nearly won the Evian Masters in 2007 and led into the final day at the US Women’s Open before finishing 6th.
Birdie Kim added the US Women’s Open to her resume in 2005 after a dramatic last hole birdie from a greenside bunker gave her victory. Kim has not been quite as impressive since but a runner up place finish at the Tournament of Champions late last year suggest she is not far from the sort of form required to win this week.
Tseng Ya Ni (also known as Ruby) is a highly talented 18 year old from Taiwan who at the age of 15 defeated Michelle Wie at the US Public Links Championship. Tseng recently signed with IMG and gained her USLPGA Tour card by finishing 6th at the LPGA Tour School late last year. She has already played well in Australia previously finishing 3rd behind Amy Yang at the ANZ Ladies Master as a 17 year old in 2006. She is clearly a huge talent with a significant career ahead of her.
Another US Public Links Champion Tiffany Joh is also in the field after playing collegiate golf at UCLA for the past three years. She shared third place with Tseng behind Amy Yang at the 2006 ANZ Ladies Masters and is yet another Korean golfer destined for success on the LPGA Tour when she eventually gets there.
Laura Davies comes off her victory at the Women’s NSW Open last week looking for more and she is perhaps the most in-form golfer in the field this week. The 2004 winner of this event at the Concord Golf Club could win again but this is a considerably stronger field than that she faced last week. She has already fallen in love with the Kingston Heath layout however and that will stand her in good stead throughout the week.
Other internationals who may be a factor are the two players who finished in a share of third last year namely Spain’s Paula Marti and Finland’s Minea Blomqvist while the European number two and three in 2007, Bettina Hauert and Gwladys Nocera are also in Melbourne and are expected to do well.
Amy Yang has done enough since turning professional 15 months ago to be considered some sort of chance this week. The Gold Coast based Korean is considered by many to be a world class player of the future and she has a chance again to repeat the heroics of her 2006 ANZ Ladies Masters victory
From Japan comes their number two in 2007 Sakura Yokomine. Yokomine won three times on the Japan Ladies Golf Tour in 2007 and the 22-year-old has won ten events overall.
Australian golf looks ahead to when Karrie Webb’s domination of the female game here is challenged on a regular basis by an Australian born player. This week there are several who could put their hand up for consideration more especially, Lindsey Wright from Albury who is slowly but surely building a successful career on the LPGA Tour.
Sarah Kemp, Nikki Garrett, Joanne Mills are other players who could do well fly the Australian flag with distinction along with Australia’s number two Rachel Hetherington and several newcomers to the professional ranks such as Dana Lacey and Frances Bondad.