The much anticipated 2013 LPGA Tour season kicks off this week in Australia’s capital, Canberra, with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. The Tour will open the season in Australia for the second-consecutive year. A field of 157 players will be playing for a $1.2 million purse and will faceoff at Royal Canberra Golf Club. It will be the club’s first time hosting the event and will be included as part of the city’s centenary celebration. 2013 marks the second year the tournament will be an official LPGA event.
American Jessica Korda will set out this week to defend her title and to replicate her performance from a year ago that helped her capture her first-career victory. As a second-year Tour player in 2012, Korda became a Rolex First-Time Winner at Royal Melbourne Golf Club and did so in decisive fashion, sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a six-player playoff.
A strong field in Canberra will be fighting to take the first title of the year and to make a statement to open the 2013 season. The always dangerous Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng has seen success Down Under and is a two-time winner of the event, clinching back-to-back victories in 2010 and 2011. Tseng is coming off a three-win season in 2012 and will try to get off to another blazing start. She won three out of the first five events on the Tour’s schedule a year ago.
Three additional top-10 players in the Rolex Rankings will tee it up at Royal Canberra this week including 2012 Rolex Player of the Year and No. 3 Stacy Lewis, 2012 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year and No. 7 So Yeon Ryu and No. 8 Jiyai Shin.
Lewis, the top-ranked American in the world, will be looking to improve on her four-win season in 2012 and challenge Tseng for the No. 1 ranking. Lewis’ all-around solid play throughout the 2012 season kept her at the top of several statisitacal categories, making it hard to imagine there be much room for improvement for the Texas native. She ranked 1st in Rounds in the 60s, eagles, birdies and 3rd in Greens in Regulation, Putts per Green, and the Tour’s official money list.
Fifteen LPGA Tour rookies will be making their Tour debuts as members in Canberra this and will start off the race for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year. Among the group of rookies is 2012 Symetra Tour Player of the Year Esther Choe, LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament co-medalist Moriya Jutanugarn and 2011 NCAA Division I National Champion Austin Ernst.
Another name to watch out for is amateur and teenage sensation Lydia Ko, who will be playing for second LPGA victory. Ko won the CN Canadian Women’s Open last year and became the first amateur to win on Tour in over 43 years. The New Zealander will also be coming off of her third-professional win, after she clinched the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open last week in Christchurch, New Zealand.