The LPGA Tour finally gets its major season underway this week. The recently renamed Women’s Open taking place at famed Royal Troon in Scotland, with nine Aussies attempting to claim major glory.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Japan’s Hinako Shibuno birdied the final hole at Woburn Golf Club to reach 18 under and claim a major win in her debut LPGA Tour start. ‘Smiling Cinderella’ defeating American Lizette Salas by a single stroke.
COURSE: Royal Troon welcomes the Women’s Open for the first time, having hosted The Open championship nine times, most recently in 2016 when Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson battled on the final day. The par-72 to measure 6,756 yards this week.
Charlie Hunter the ‘Keeper of the Green’ at nearby Prestwick, host of the first Open, set out Troon’s first five hole course, with a number of others making adjustments, including five time Open winner James Braid.
Lying alongside the Firth of Clyde, Royal Troon is a traditional out-and-back links course that is often buffeted by strong winds, with its par-3 8th hole the shortest hole played on The Open rota and arguably one of the most famous one-shotters in the world.
Measuring just 123 yards, the ‘Postage Stamp’ features an extremely narrow green protected by five bunkers. Find the green from the tee here or face disaster.
PLAYERS TO WATCH …
American Danielle Kang didn’t show any signs of jet lag last week in Scotland and remains the primary player to keep an eye on this week. The major winner recording a T5 result at the Ladies Scottish Open following her back-to-back wins in the LPGA’s first events back from its hiatus.
Kang appeared to become more comfortable as the week went on at Renaissance Club, firing matching rounds of 69 on the weekend and needing just 28 putts on Sunday.
As the form player in the women’s game, it would be a huge surprise if the 27-year-old didn’t find herself in the mix at Royal Troon and potentially holding a second major trophy having won the Women’s PGA Championship in 2017.
RIGHT: Hinako Shibuno points to her trademark smile while holding the Women’s Open trophy at Woburn in 2019. PHOTO: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images.
Australia’s most recent major winner – Hannah Green – made her return to competitive golf last week after nearly six months off and picked up where she left off. The reigning Women’s PGA champion sharing 16th place for a third top-20 from three LPGA Tour starts in 2020.
Green didn’t break 70 last week at The Renaissance Club, but in tough conditions and while removing competitive rust, her game appeared in good shape and reason to be buoyant about her chances this week.
And with a Scottish mother, it is fair to say the 23-year-old will have a little added motivation.
Green’s fellow West Australian Minjee Lee missed the top-10 for a change last week, but still managed to record a top-20, sharing 16th place with her compatriot.
Lee has now recorded 3rd, 4th and 16th place finishes since the LPGA Tour’s return and as a solid wind player, is one to watch here at the only major where the five-time LPGA winner owns more than one top-10.
The resurgent Lydia Ko is worth watching once again this week, the Kiwi T12 last week after a disappointing final round 74.
The former World No.1 has struggled at the Women’s Open in the past, her lone top-10 coming in 2015, but that was at a true links course, and her game and confidence suggest this is a new Lydia Ko.
72-HOLE RECORD: Queenslander Karrie Webb jointly holds the scoring record at this event, her 269 total in 1997 equalled by Karen Stupples in 2004.
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Karrie Webb (2002 – major championship, 1997 & 1995), Karen Lunn (1993) and Corinne Dibnah (1988).
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Hannah Green, Whitney Hillier, Sarah Kemp, Katherine Kirk, Stephanie Kyriacou, Minjee Lee, Su Oh, Gabriela Ruffels (a) and Sarah Jane Smith.
Round 1: Thursday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 7:30pm – 10:30pm & Fox Sports 505 12am-3am)
Round 2: Friday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 7:30pm – 10:30pm & Fox Sports 507 12am-3am)
Round 3: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 11pm – 4am)
Round 4: Sunday (Fox Sports 507 LIVE 10pm – 3am)
*AEST, check local guides