Sebonack Golf Club, host of the 2013 U.S Women's Open
Five Australians will be contesting this week’s US Women’s Open and it should come as no surprise that Australian golf is heading into another major championship riding the fortunes of Karrie Webb.
As the best players in women's golf gather in New York to chase the title they want to win above all others, that’s again the case. But the Queenslander, this season more than any in the recent past, is a legitimate contender to lift her third US Open crown.
Webb, 38, leads a five-strong contingent into battle on the renowned Sebonack Golf Club course on Long Island from Thursday night (AEST), with Katherine Hull-Kirk, Sarah Jane Smith, Lindsey Wright and qualifier Stacey Keating also flying the flag.
Sebonack, a collaboration of Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus, is 150km east of Manhattan and one of three superb courses nestled in the rolling seaside hills of Southampton, alongside the National Golf Links of America and the world famous Shinnecock Hills.
But, befitting any US Open, the course has been set up to challenge the world's best and will provide a stern test, which should play into the hands of the ultra-steady Webb.
Webb, the 2000 and 2001 Open champion, said this week that the layout wouldn't favour a particular style, but she said the signature wide Nicklaus fairways offered “a bit of freedom off the tee”.
Remarkably, Webb, whose victory in last month's ShopRite LPGA Classic was her 39th career LPGA win, brings the tour's longest consecutive streak of cuts made into this week -- now 54 in a row.
She said after a practice round earlier this week that her scoring had been helped this season by an ability to scramble well in other areas should one facet of her game not be in synch. That form again has her seventh on the LPGA money list.
Hull-Kirk, conversely, hasn't found her best form this season missing seven cuts after a promising tie for eighth at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open in Canberra.
In contrast, Wright has been more consistent this year, missing just two cuts in 11 starts and is historically suited to such tough courses.
Smith has enjoyed some of her best form on the LPGA Tour in recent tournaments and was right in the mix at the Wegman's LPGA Championship at halfway before fading out at the weekend of the year's second major.
The equally effervescent Keating fought her way into her first US Open as a player at sectional qualifying at Oak Valley in California last month. She has been to the tournament three times before as a Karrie Webb scholarship recipient.
The reigning Women’s Victorian Open champion turned 27 last week is looking forward to the week, “I really am very excited, yet trying to keep a lid on all of it, yet lap up the experience at the same time!.”
“I have had two practice rounds so far and the course is great. It’s in great condition. I think the weather will be play a big factor with it the course been situated right on the coast line.”
“The greens are huge with some buried elephants underneath them, so putting will be a key and using your imagination.”
Keating proved at last year’s RICOH British Open she has the ability to perform in the majors but is keeping her expectations low, “I really want to enjoy my experience and not get too caught up with my scores. If I play we'll I see it as a bonus. I know I'm going to be nervous Thursday. But hopefully I can control these and hit some good shots and learn a lot.”
Among a hot field, is the precociously talented teenager, New Zealand's world No.1 amateur Lydia Ko. At 16, Ko has already shown a capacity to mix it with the world's best, having won three professional tournaments.
But the Kiwi is a veteran compared to the field's youngest player, 14-year-old Nelly Korda, the sister of 2012 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open champion Jessica.
And they'll all have to beat white-hot Rolex Ranked World No.1 Inbee Park, the Korean superstar who has won both majors this year and saluted last week in Arkansas for her fifth win already this season.
Legends Babe Zaharias, Mickey Wright and Pat Bradley are the only women to have won three majors in the same year, with Zaharias the only one to do it consecutively, leaving Park with a shot at history this week.
Park, 24, won this title in 2008 and remarkably has finished outside the top 10 just three times in the past 14 major championships.
Veteran American Julie Inkster will set a record this week in making her 34th US Open appearance.
The defending champion this week is South Korean Na Yeon Choi.
The 156 players will be vying for their share of the US$3.25million on offer.
Tune into Fox Sports from 5am Friday morning (AEST) for coverage of the tournament.