19 Aug 2020 | Professional golf |

Aussies tackle Troon challenge

by Mark Hayes

AIG Women's Open trophy image
The AIG Women's Open, otherwise known as the Women's British Open, is hitting Royal Troon for the first time. Photo: R&A

No fewer than nine Australian women will bid for their spot in golfing history this week.

From an amateur to the “rookiest” of rookies, up to world-ranked players in their prime and veterans beyond, there’s rarely been a more balanced Aussie assault on the AIG Open.

And that the women have a chance to join the Open honour roll at Royal Troon, one of the world’s most storied courses, only adds to the increasingly broad appeal of the tournament, which became a major championship in 2001.

On form and ranking, West Australian duo Minjee Lee and Hannah Green are both legitimate contenders for what is, remarkably, the first major championship of the year on the Covid-19-altered LPGA Tour schedule.

Lee has been in sparkling form since the Tour resumed in Ohio three weeks ago, finishing third, fourth and T16 to highlight her consistency and competitiveness.

Green, who flew from Perth directly to the UK to resume her season, also finished at T16 in the Scottish Open, showcasing her enjoyment of the bouncy tracks in the game’s homeland.

They’ll be joined by fellow LPGA Tour regulars Sarah Kemp, Sarah Jane Smith and Su Oh, plus Katherine Kirk, who has been close in Europe in recent years, particularly at the Evian Championship, which has been cancelled this year.

But it’s also worth noting that Kirk, an evergreen with three LPGA titles to her name, was second to Yani Tseng in this event in 2010 on another course featured on the men’s Open rota, Royal Birkdale.

Perth’s Whitney Hillier will make her fourth appearance in the Open, but it will be the debut of her fellow LET representative, Steph Kyriacou.

The Sydneysider turned pro in a blaze of glory after her record-breaking win at the Australian Ladies Classic while an amateur in February. But her playing opportunities have been severely hampered by the pandemic, meaning this will be just her third event as a touring professional.

But Kyriacou at least has the benefit of having toured the UK as an amateur previously – a luxury that hasn’t been afforded to one of the brightest prospects in the field, Melbourne’s Gabriela Ruffels.

Los Angeles-based Ruffels, runner-up in the recent US Women’s Amateur while defending her 2019 crown, has never set foot in Scotland until this weekend, so is hurriedly trying to acclimatise to the weather and course conditions.

The record for Australian competitors is 17 in 1998; we had 13 in 1995 and 12 as recently as 2012, while we also had nine Aussie competitors in both 2013 and 2014.

Notably, other, than 2004, this will be the first year that Karrie Webb has missed since her winning debut in 1995.

The legendary Queenslander, though, will always have a key role in this tournament. Webb is the joint record holder (with Karen Stupples) with her 1997 victory coming in just 269 strokes (-19) at Sunningdale.

And after her 2005 triumph, the World Golf Hall of Fame member also has a share of the most wins in the tournament; her mark of three shared by American Sherri Steinhauer.

There have been two other Aussie winners of the championship, first contested in 1976.

Queenslander Corinne Dibnah won at Lindrick in 1988, while current ALPG Tour chief executive and LET legend Karen Lunn won at Woburn in 1993.

The tournament will be shown live on Kayo and Fox Sports for Australian viewers.


Round 1: Thursday night (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 7:30pm – 10:30pm & Fox Sports 505 12am-3am) Round 2: Friday night (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 7:30pm – 10:30pm & Fox Sports 507 12am-3am) Round 3: Saturday night (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 11pm – 4am) Round 4: Sunday night (Fox Sports 507 LIVE 10pm – 3am) * All times Australian Eastern standard

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