Clockwise: Yani Tseng, Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome, Jiyai Shin, Stacy Lewis, Karrie Webb and Suzann Pettersen.
Melbourne will unveil a galaxy of the best golfers in the world at Royal Melbourne Golf Club next month for the LPGA season opening ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open from 9-12 February.
Rolex World Number 1 and defending champion Yani Tseng headlines six of the top 10 players in the world to do battle for an Australian Open record US$1.1 million prize money including Norway’s Suzann Pettersen (#2), Korean Jiyai Shin (#7) and Americans Cristie Kerr (#4), Stacy Lewis (#9) and Brittany Lincicome (#10).
Joining them is Australian World Golf Hall of Fame member Karrie Webb and Americans Morgan Pressel, Angela Stanford and new LPGA Tour member Lexi Thompson. Thompson became the youngest player in history to win an LPGA event at 16 years of age at the Navistar Classic last September. She followed up by becoming the youngest professional to win on the Ladies European Tour at the season ending Dubai Ladies Masters.
Thompson who has played in Melbourne for the last two years, said she was looking forward to the composite course challenge.
"I am so excited to make my debut as a member of the LPGA at the 2012 ISPS Handa Australian Open. I watched the Presidents Cup with great interest and can't wait to play Royal Melbourne. I truly enjoyed my previous trips to Australia and I am really looking forward to the wonderful fans and amazing hospitality down under," Thompson said.
2011 US Women’s Open champion So-Yeon Ryu heads an impressive list of Korean players including 2008 and 2009 US Women’s Open champions Inbee Park and Eun-Hee Ji and Hee Young Park who won the LPGA’s season ending CME Group Titleholders in November.
The European charge will be lead by former Open champions Laura Davies and Sophie Gustafson as well as Sandra Gal, Melissa Reid, Anna Nordqvist and Ladies European Tour Player of the Year Caroline Hedwall.
In total, 18 of the 2011 Solheim Cup representatives will be in action in Melbourne.
Australians Katherine Hull, Nikki Campbell, Sarah Kemp, Kristie Smith, Lindsey Wright and Frances Bondad join Webb as the home challengers.
Golf Australia CEO Stephen Pitt said “The world’s eyes will be on Melbourne for this sensational field and with so many outstanding players, it’s hard to know which way to look. We’re excited to welcome the LPGA Tour to Melbourne for the first time and to kick off their global season.”
“It’s a year of many firsts for the event. It’s the first major professional women’s event to be held across the composite course at Royal Melbourne, the first time the Women’s Open has been held at Royal Melbourne and record prize money for the event,” Pitt added.
“We look forward to seeing fans lining the fairways for a wonderful championship on a very special golf course.”
Victorian Government Minister for Sport and Recreation, Hugh Delahunty said Australia’s premier sporting events city was proud to host the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
“Golf fans will be provided with a great opportunity to see exciting and gifted players applying their skills at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to both showcase Melbourne and to inspire more people, to enjoy and play golf, more often."
ABC TV is the Host Broadcaster, covering all four days of the championship.
The ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open is a fully sanctioned LPGA event, co-sanctioned by the ALPG Tour and Ladies European Tour.