12 Jan 2022 | Professional golf |
Marquee groups finalised for Fortinet Australian PGA and WPGA Championships
by Australian Golf Media
Headline act Min Woo Lee has been paired with LPGA Tour star Su Oh and Victorian PGA champion Blake Windred as the final fields for the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship and Fortinet Australian WPGA Championship were released on Wednesday.
Tournament withdrawals due to positive Covid-19 cases forced a reshuffle on Wednesday afternoon but when play commences on Thursday morning at Royal Queensland Golf Club the talent on show will speak for itself.
World No.49 and winner of the 2021 abrdn Scottish Open, Lee is expected to attract a large gallery when he tees off in his first round from the 10th tee at 6.45am AEST.
Alongside him will be former Ladies Masters champion and one of the leading contenders to claim the Karrie Webb Cup, Su Oh. An Olympian in 2016, Oh was runner-up at the Cambia Portland Classic last year and was the top women’s player at the TPS Victoria event at Rosebud Country Club 12 months ago.
The marquee match-up will also serve to advance Windred’s development who has played the past two years on the Challenge Tour in Europe and earned his maiden ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia at Moonah Links prior to Christmas.
Crowned the PGA Tour of Australasia Player of the Year at Tuesday night’s Greg Norman Medal, Brad Kennedy will tee off in the group ahead of Lee, partnered with former PGA TOUR player Michael Sim and experienced LPGA Tour player Sarah Jane Smith.
A last-start winner at the Gippsland Super 6, Jack Thompson has been drawn to play with 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and rookie professional Grace Kim from 11.30am.
Currently leading the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit, a strong result at Royal Queensland would take Thompson a step closer to a DP World Tour card later this year while as a four-time recipient of the Karrie Webb Scholarship Kim is eager to be the first name engraved on the trophy bearing her idol’s name.
Veterans Richard Green and Peter Fowler will tee off at 6.25am alongside Tamara Johns, Peter Lonard and Marcus Fraser will be joined by Vicky Uwland and Robyn Choi will play with former PGA Tour winner Andre Stolz and three-time European Tour winner Peter O’Malley.
Other afternoon groups to watch closely will be the young gun triple treat featuring Elvis Smylie, Louis Dobbelaar and Karis Davidson, playing in the group in front of 2020 Australian Amateur champion Jed Morgan, New South Welshman Nathan Barbieri and Victorian Stephanie Bunque.
LPGA Tour players Stephanie Kyriacou and Sarah Kemp have been forced to withdraw from the tournament due to returning positive Covid cases.
Kyriacou returned two positive RAT tests on Tuesday which was confirmed by a PCR test on Wednesday afternoon.
Kemp also returned two positive RATs on Wednesday morning and as a PCR result won’t be known prior to the commencement of the tournament has been forced to withdraw.
“Obviously we are devastated for both Steph and Sarah that they will not be able to contest the inaugural Fortinet Australian WPGA Championship,” said WPGA Tour of Australasia CEO Karen Lunn.
“I know both were so excited for the opportunity to play on Aussie soil again and compete for the Karrie Webb Cup but this is the unfortunate reality that we are currently living through.
“We have seen sports the world over suffer at the hands of Covid but we have every confidence that we will stage a wonderful tournament and that we will see a worthy winner crowned on Sunday.
“Su Oh, Sarah Jane Smith and Karis Davidson are all current LPGA Tour players, Julienne Soo plays on the Symetra Tour and our rising stars such as Grace Kim, Cassie Porter and Steph Bunque will no doubt see it as a wonderful opportunity so early in their careers.”
A two-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, Kyriacou earned her LPGA Tour card at the Q-Series tournament in December and was devastated to have to withdraw.
“I was really looking forward to playing this week and getting back into tournament golf,” said Kyriacou.
“It’s pretty devastating not to be able to play in the WPGA Championship but unfortunately it is out of my control.”
It has been almost two years since Kemp last played a tournament in Australia and she too is disappointed not to have the opportunity to play for the Karrie Webb Cup.
“I was only saying on Tuesday how much winning this week would mean to me so to have to now withdraw is extremely disappointing,” said Kemp.
“It was disappointing when my results came back positive this morning and given how little time there is before the start of the tournament there wasn’t really any other option.”
“It’s unfortunate but this is the reality of sport in 2022,” added PGA of Australia CEO Gavin Kirkman.
“It’s happened in so many other sports as well as in golf if you look back to the terrible Jon Rahm situation last year, and we can’t expect to be immune from it here.
“We’re doing our absolute utmost to make it a Covid-safe tournament, and the systems and processes that we have in place are actually working so we’re going to have a good week.
“But we feel for the players who’ve had to withdraw and it’s the players’ health and safety that is our utmost concern this week.”
The Fortinet Australian PGA Championship and Fortinet Australian WPGA Championship are two separate tournaments run concurrently over 72-holes. The two fields consist of 120 men and 24 women with the men’s champion to receive the Joe Kirkwood Cup and the women’s champion the Karrie Webb Cup.
The winner of each tournament will receive $180,000 in prize money.
Click here for the final field, draw and all tournament information.
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