It has been four years since an Australian won their national title and lifted the Patricia Bridges Bowl. But despite the challenges of a difficult layout and a star-studded field – which features three former World No.1s and 15 major championship winners – there are at least two members of the Australian contingent who remain confident of breaking the drought.
Leading the charge will be World No.16 Minjee Lee, who won the Vic Open earlier this month and was runner-up at last week’s Canberra Classic.
The 21-year-old West Australian enters the ISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open as determined as ever.
“My goal is to win,” Lee said. “I don’t think anybody comes into a tournament not wanting to win.
“I think you put more (pressure) on yourself because you have such high expectations competing in your home country and it’s your national title … I think the expectation is the pressure.”
Lee, who finished with a share of third last year, conceded that the Kooyonga layout will prove challenging. But it is a challenge she appears ready for.
“I’ve never been here, I’ve never played a tournament here,” Lee said. “I think it’s really difficult around this track – I think it tests all parts of your game. Everything sort of runs off the greens and they’re really firm – and if the wind gets up it’s going to be really tricky.
“I think it’s just all about smart play around here.”
Hannah Green, who shares the same swing coach (Ritchie Smith) as Lee and is the newest Australian to have earned a place on the LPGA Tour, echoed those comments and is well-prepared for a charge at the title.
“I’m very excited about the week,” Green said. “I was over here last month, I managed to play a practice round here and it’s just nice to be somewhere familiar.
“I came tied 7th last year – so it was really impressive and it definitely made a big difference for the rest of my year,” said Green, who won three times on America’s second-tier Symetra Tour throughout 2017 to earn herself Rookie of the Year honours.
Standing in their way will be eight past Australian Open winners and 12 of the top-30 women in the world rankings.
Brooke Henderson, Canada’s World No.14, agreed with the two Australians, saying: “It’s going to be a true test of golf, which I think is the way it should be. You have to really think your way around this course, be very strategic and hit certain spots.”
The 20-year-old is one of the most well travelled players on the LPGA Tour and will, as always, be a crowd favourite this week in Adelaide – especially to one particular member of Golf Australia’s MyGolf Program.
“I think it’s really cool because being Canadian, I have a lot of Canadian support, but since I’ve been playing all over the world, I’ve really got fans everywhere,” Henderson said.
“There’s a little girl, Mackenzie, who’s followed me. She’s so cute and I love seeing here there. I was playing last year and I saw her walking along every day. Then I found out she missed school – her dad brought her and was there just to support me and cheer me on.
“Then she came to New Zealand as well and was there for my win, which was really cool. She brought me and my sister presents as well – she’s just a really big fan and she’s a great little girl.”
Defending champion, Korea’s Ha Na Jang, agreed that this year’s venue will be “really different” to Royal Adelaide – where she surged home to clinch the title – but feels comfortable no matter where she plays in Australia.
“I’ve played four times in Australia and (had) three top-10s, one time as champion, so I feel really comfortable,” the World No.30 said.
The Women’s Australian Open gets underway on Thursday February 15 at Kooyonga Golf Club. You can keep up with all the action across Golf Australia magazine’s social accounts and read daily stories via the website.