The ISPS Handa Australian Women's Open begins Thursday at the Royal Canberra Golf Club in Australia's national capital and while the field is perhaps dominated by several of the female game's leading players, the chances stretch significantly beyond the obvious.
Those obvious are the two time winner and world number one, Yani Tseng, the player who moved from number ten to number three last year, Stacy Lewis, the Rookie of the Year on the LPGA Tour in 2012, So Yeon Ryu, the current Women's British Open Champion, Jiyai Shin, four time champion Karrie Webb and the most exciting prospect in the game, Lydia Ko.
While there is a strong likelihood that the winner will come from this group there are plenty more that could win without a major surprise.
Tseng went into 2012 with such a lead in the Rolex World Ranking that she appeared as if she would extend it rather than battle the way she did for much of the season. 99% of the LPGA Tour players would probably killed for a season that good however. Three victories and nearly US1.5 million was hardly a struggle but in relative terms it was compared to the dominance she had displayed the previous year.
"I know it’s been a tough year for me but when I look back, I have three wins, I have 12 top 10s, so that’s still pretty good, because all the people are putting high expectation on me, even myself too. I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself and then it’s like I practice so hard. It’s almost overdoing it, because I never practice so much like last year.
"I think yes because I feel pretty good," she responded when asked if she felt she could win this week. "This is my first tournament of the year and I’m very excited and I love Australia. I came here every year to play and to have a holiday, so I’m very familiar for Australia and playing at Royal Canberra, this is a great golf course. It’s true, I don't know if it’s my game but I think after those few rounds, practice rounds, I think my game is pretty good and my hitting - you just need to get on the fairway for this course is the main key for me this week. I’m very looking forward to it and very enjoy it."
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Stacy Lewis has become American female golf's great hope after what was four victories in 2012 and a huge leap in her world ranking to the point where she now sits in third position behind only Tseng and Na Yeon Choi. She already likes what she sees of Royal Canberra but does she think the course will suit her?
"Well I’d say I think any time you’re playing well and you’re playing good, I think any course will suit you. This course is tricky. You have to hit it straight and I think what's going to be the main key is how many opportunities you can give yourself off the tee to hit greens. So long as you hit on the greens I think you can make some putts."
"It has been a couple of months since I played a tournament though and you can only practice so much. To get a true feel for what competition is like you just have to get into it."
So Yeon Ryu is a rapidly emerging player in world terms. She won US Women's Open came even before she was a member of the LPGA Tour but when she joined the Tour for the first time in 2012 she became Rookie of the Year and climbed to the number six position in the game.
Ryu led this event at various stages last year before being one of the playoff losers but has a real chance to atone after a solid tournament at the Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast two weeks ago.
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Jiyai Shin is returning to her former glory which saw her take over from Lorena Ochoa as the world number one when the Mexican retired from the game. The current British Open Champion hardly flattered when 33rd at Royal Pines but her amazingly accurate game from the tee will see her much more competitive this week.
Four time champion, Karrie Webb, is primed after her great win at Royal Pines and a week at home in North Queensland to recharge the batteries before three LPGA events in a row.
This is Webb's first visit to Canberra since playing in a Queensland side as a 14 year old back in the late 1980's but she loves the feel the course offers and the emphasis it places on finding the fairways from the tee.
"I love that part of it, definitely have to move it both ways off the tee," said Webb. "I think that will really come into play if these fairways dry out. Right now they’re a bit soft. I was quite surprised, I knew how hot it had been here and I think they’ve poured the water on so they haven’t lost the fairways. But if the fairways firm up then you really are going to have to shape it off the tee to keep it in the fairway."
Lydia Ko is fresh off her great win at last week's New Zealand Open and although still only 15 she has taken the golfing world by storm in the past twelve months in particular. A week off before the New Zealand Open reaped rewards with an emotional victory in front of her home fans in Christchurch last week adding that title to the NSW Open and Canadian Open titles she won in 2012. Nothing seems beyond Ko and if she was to add an Australian Open title to her name then few would be surprised.
Stacey Keating is arguably Australian golf's most promising player having won twice on the Ladies European Tour in 2012. Keating led the New Zealand Women's Open last week before being run down late by Lydia Ko and importantly for her chances Keating has played well at this venue in previous years when an ALPG event has been played at Royal Canberra.
Brittany Lincicome is one of the game's longest hitters and given that she finished runner-up in the event at Royal Melbourne last year and that she finished 3rd at her second to last start at the CME Group titleholders event on the LPGA Tour the credentials are there for all to see.
Of course there are many more chances of course in a field of this nature but there is a very good chance the winner will come from the above-mentioned.
The ISPS Handa Australian Women's Open carries prize-money of US$1.2 million and gets the 2013 ULPGA Tour schedule underway.