Photograph courtesy of LPGA
Minjee Lee will once again spearhead the Australian challenge at the first major championship of 2019, when she tees off tomorrow morning Australian time at the ANA Inspiration at the Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage, California.
Lee has already had a fantastic start to her 2019 LPGA season, with the West Australian having finished second twice in 2019 from her six starts. Australia’s highest ranked player and the world number three sits fourth on the LPGA’s Race to the CME Globe with more than US$331,000 in prizemoney, and will be hoping she can add the handsome winner's cheque of US$450,000 to that total this week.
Lee’s rise over the past four years has been phenomenal, however the one thing currently missing on the 22-year-old’s resume is a major championship. Lee’s best finish in a major to date was a tie for third place at this event back in 2017, and surely it is only a matter of time before the youngster breaks through.
Lee feels that in 2019 she is playing with more maturity and experience, two assets to which she owes her early season success, and her steadfast consistency is sure to come into play this week at Mission Hills Golf Club.
“I’m definitely pretty excited to be here,” said Lee, who is making her sixth ANA Inspiration start. “It's the first major of the year. I think for myself I think of it as another event. I'm just coming to play my best and just try and go out there and have some fun."
In total seven Australian will tee it up this week at Mission Hills with total prizemoney of US$3million on offer, and all seven will come into the event believing that they have a chance to make the dive into “Poppie’s Pond” come Sunday afternoon.
Karrie Webb will tee it up this week as the last Australian woman to win a major championship back in 2006, when she famously holed out on the final hole for eagle to take out what was then known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
The 44-year-old will once again play a reduced schedule in 2019 and this week will be playing in just her third event in 2019. Webb has shown signs in her early starts at the ISPS Handa Vic Open and the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open that she still has the game and the passion to contend for major title number eight should she bring her A-game to the California Desert this week.
Fellow Queenslander Katherine Kirk comes into this week in red-hot form having closed with a bogey-free 65 in the Kia Classic in San Diego last weekend to finish in a tie for 13th place, while fellow maroon Sarah Jane Smith has proven she has the game to contend for major titles following her results in 2018.
Smith will be hoping she can battle her way into contention this week as the 34-year-old will step away from the tour in the next month as she and husband Duane prepare for the arrival of their first child due in July.
West Australian Hannah Green has some fond memories from her first outing at Mission Hills in 2018 where she finished in a tie for 16th place on her major championship debut last year, while Victorian Su Oh will hope a new caddie on the bag this week, Englishman Andy Dearden will help her find the consistency which has deserted her in 2019 since her second-place finish at the Vic Open in February.
Sarah Kemp will round out the Aussie contingent this week and heads into the tournament full of confidence after a superb 2019 ALPG Tour season winning the Order of Merit.
Kemp played her way into the ANA Inspiration by virtue of her tie for second at the Vic Open followed by another top-10 finish at the Australian Open, and will be chomping at the bit to get started this week.
Kemp's play in early 2019 has been career-changing, the 33-year-old started 2019 without status on the LPGA Tour and has already guaranteed herself a number of starts in 2019 including this week and has all but secured her LPGA Tour card for 2020.
The ANA Inspiration will be shown live on various Fox Sports channels through the weekend, starting on Friday morning at 3:00 am AEDT on 503.
Selected Tee Times (local times)
7:31 am Tee 1 Su Oh & Kristen Gillman
8:03 am Tee 1 Minjee Lee & Stacy Lewis
8:43 am Tee 10 Sarah Kemp & Lauren Stephenson
12:47 pm Tee 1 Karrie Webb & Annie Park
1:35 pm Tee 1 Hannah Green & Chella Choi
1:35 pm Tee 10 Katherine Kirk & Frida Kinhult (a)
1:43 pm Tee 1 Sarah Jane Smith & Xiyu Lin
Follow all the scores at http://www.lpga.com/leaderboard