ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open Preview
By Andrew Spence
A CHALLENGING course in superb condition awaits a star-studded line-up at this month’s ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in Adelaide, South Australia.
The world’s top two ranked players Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn will tee it up at the Royal Adelaide Golf Club along with defending champion Haru Nomura and perennial crowd favourites Michelle Wie and Karrie Webb in what is being billed as one of the strongest women’s fields ever assembled Down Under.
Tournament Director Trevor Herden said the Royal Adelaide course, next door to last year’s host The Grange Golf Club in Adelaide’s western suburbs, was looking “fantastic” for the February 16-19 event.
“For two weeks out it’s unbelievably good,” he said.
“The wind can be a key factor there but we’ve got a very good forecast on paper so we’re hoping that everything stays true and we should have a bumper week.”
“If it stays reasonably calm, it’ll be a nice course to play but if you miss at Royal Adelaide you generally get penalised pretty severely.”
The extended Adelaide weather forecast is for fine conditions in tournament week with daily maximums in the mid-to-high 20s celsius (77-85F) – slightly warmer than the season opening tournament in the Bahamas last week but much less humid.
The Par 73 links-style layout, less than two kilometres from the coast, has fewer trees than The Grange but has tight fairways, thick rough that is also sandy and is heavily bunkered in places. A suburban train line runs through the course, adding to its unique character and charm.
Herden said it would be a tough test for players and could provide some insights into how the 2017 LPGA season unfolds.
“It will be a great gauge for a lot of players because Royal Adelaide is a great test – long irons, short irons, greens, bunkering complexes, it’s got everything and that’s why it’s rated so highly in Australia and around the world,” he said.
“The condition of it is going to be superb, the weather’s good and it will be the first real hit out of some serious golf for some of them.”
Golf Australia announced trailblazing American player Michelle Wie would play her first ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open since 2013.
Still just 27, Wie has 11 major top 10 finishes to her name and took out the 2014 Women’s US Open before an injury-plagued 2016.
“I’m really excited about what the season ahead will hold for me and I’m hopeful that Adelaide will put me on the right track to a successful year,” Wie said.
“Royal Adelaide is obviously a course known around the world and the girls spoke so highly of South Australia last year that I can’t wait to see not only the club, but everything going on around the state, too.”
Herden said the international players would not have it all their own way with a strong contingent of Australians likely to be in the mix at the LPGA event.
“Karrie Webb has got a phenomenal record – she’s won the Australian Open five times and she’s well rested so she might come out firing,” he said.
“Minjee Lee’s rise to the top 20 in the world has been outstanding in such a short time and Sue Oh is on the brink so we’ve got a lot of potential there that can fire up and be right amongst it on Sunday. “
Last year’s event at The Grange was the first of three consecutive years for the tournament in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. Next year’s event will be held about 5km to the south at another sandbelt course, Kooyonga.
The Royal Adelaide event will be broadcast on the Golf Channel and across the LPGA’s global platform.
Herden said it would be one of the strongest women’s fields ever assembled in Australia as players competed for a US$1.3 million purse and 500 points in the Race to the CME Globe.
He said the Australian Open had been gaining momentum, particularly since the success of last year’s event.
“As an example, last year there were three people here from Japan to film it, this year there’s 25 coming so it’s growing legs all around the globe,” Herden said.
“Adelaide has certainly been promoted by the players who came last year – they really enjoyed themselves and they like the golf courses.”
The ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open Preview is via The Lead South Australia, the news service for the state.