AUSSIES IN THE HUNT
Four Australian players are T17 or better on the leaderboard after Round 1 - Katherine Kirk (1, -8), Hannah Green (T9, -4), Sarah Jane Smith (T17, -3) and Su Oh (T17, -3). Australian Olympian Minjee Lee is not too far off at 1-under. Five-time Australian Open champion Karrie Webb shot a 3-over 76 on Thursday.
SMOOTH START FOR WORLD’S BEST
World No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 2-under 71 in her first round of 2017 and sits six shots off the lead in a tie for 25th. All four players ranked inside the top-10 of the current Rolex Rankings who are in the field shot under par on Thursday: No. 8 Brooke Henderson (T9, -4), No. 6 Ha Na Jang (T17, -3) and No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (T41, -1).
All ten of the Symetra Tour’s Volvik Race to the Card graduates from 2016 are in the field this week. Marissa Steen (T2) leads that group at 6-under par. Seven of the ten players shot even par or better Thursday, with three of the ten currently standing T17 or better after Day 1.
FROM THE FORCE TO THE FAIRWAY
Scotland’s Michele Thomson, who sits tied for sixth at 5-under after the first round, is making her first LPGA start this week. In 2009, Thomson decided to take a break from the game to pursue a career in the police force before returning to the game as a full time professional player in 2014. Last year, Thomson finished fourth on the LET Access Tour Order of Merit to secure her full card on the LET for 2017.
LPGA AIRS TWO NEW AD SPOTS
Two of the LPGA’s new ad spots will debut during coverage of the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. The campaign launched on January 26th and highlights the global reach of the LPGA Tour and the youth of its top players. This week, one commercial featuring Lydia Ko and another asking players, “How do you describe a champion golfer?” will appear on Golf Channel’s telecast.
To learn more and view the ads, visit: http://www.lpga.com/news/lpga-launches-2017-ad-campaign-on-golf-channel
Katherine Kirk is the first Aussie to have at least a share of the first-round lead at the Australian Open since Aussie Sarah Kemp shared the first round lead with Stacy Lewis in 2012.
Katherine Kirk has two career LPGA victories - the 2010 Navistar LPGA Classic and the 2008 CN Canadian Women’s Open. Kirk has made 142 starts with eight top-10 finishes since her last win heading into this week.
Katherine Kirk’s best result in 2016 was a T21 finish at the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I.
Only three Australian players have won an Australian Open title - Karrie Webb (5), Jan Stephenson (1) and Jane Crafter (1). Webb is the only Aussie to win the tournament since it became an LPGA event in 2012.
Of the 16 players that are currently T10 or better, only four have won on the LPGA Tour - Katherine Kirk (2 wins), Chella Choi (1 win), Lizette Salas (1 win) and Brooke Henderson (3 wins).
Republic of Korea’s Chella Choi is seeking her second career LPGA Tour victory - Choi won the 2015 Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I. There were nine tournaments won by Korean players in 2016, the most of any country last year.
Americans are poised to contend for a second consecutive win on the LPGA Tour - in 2016, there were two American winners overall (Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lang). Jane Park (T2, -6), Marissa Steen (T2, -6), Lizette Salas (T6, -5), Marina Alex (T9, -4), Ally McDonald (T9, -4) and Lindy Duncan (T9, -4) are all within four shots of the current lead.
Marissa Steen won three times on the Symetra Tour in 2014 and earned Player of the Year honors. Steen, who played through cracked ribs during her rookie season on the LPGA Tour in 2015, returned to the Symetra Tour in 2016 where she would finish eighth in the Volvik Race to the Card to regain full-time LPGA status.
Defending Australian Open champion Haru Nomura posted a 2-over 75 on Thursday. No player has successfully defended this event since it joined the LPGA Tour in 2012, with five different winners hailing from five different countries in that time span.
Karis Davidson, Australia’s top-ranked amateur, is the low amateur after the first round after shooting a 1-under 72. Davidson qualified for the Australian Open by virtue of her win in the Australian Junior Championship in 2016.
Davidson and Hannah Green were the joint winners of the Karrie Webb Scholarship last year.
Michelle Wie sits five back of the current lead after shooting a bogey-free 70 in her first round since switching to “the claw” putting grip.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Actually, the first year that I played in Australia, that was in Melbourne, the Royal Melbourne, there is a gallery come and say to me, “Good luck Minjee” and I was like, okay, thank you very much, but the next hole he realised that I’m not Minjee, “So, sorry, still good luck to you”. I was like, thank you. I want to let people know that I am Min Lee, I am from Taiwan.”
- Chinese Taipei’s Min Lee humorously on if she gets confused for Minjee Lee in Minjee’s home country of Australia