Hot lineup to kick off this year’s LPGA tourYoo Sun-young brought Korea its first LPGA win of the season last year in the sixth competition, April’s Kraft Nabisco Championship. That opened the floodgates for the country, which took home nine victories, or a third of the 27 competitions.
The opener of the new season, to be held this week in Australia, will provide an early measure of what kind of success the rejuvenated Korean contingent can look forward to this year. So far, the country’s most-winning season is 2009, when Koreans and ethnic Koreans got a combined 12 victories.
The Women’s Australian Open will kick off the 29-event, 10-month 2013 LPGA season today, bringing a field of 157 players to a four-day competition at the Royal Canberra Golf Club.
Two top 10 golfers, 2012 Rookie of the Year Ryu So-yeon and 2012 British Open winner Shin Ji-yai, will lead the Korean pack at the $1.2 million event.
Tough competition lies ahead with world No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan, who won the Australian event twice in 2010 and 2011, and No. 3 Stacy Lewis of the United States seeking a head start for the season. World No. 6 Suzann Pettersen of Norway is also competing.
Jessica Korda, who beat out five other players including Ryu and compatriot Seo Hee-kyung in a playoff during the 2012 event, is seeking to defend the title.
No Korean has ever won the event; they’ve had to settle for the runner-up spot seven times. The Women’s Australian Open became part of the U.S. LPGA last year.
Emerging stars to watch out for are Oh Su-hyeon, a 16-year-old Korean-Australian amateur who finished second in the Australian Ladies Masters two weeks ago, Chella Choi, who tied for second along with Oh at the Ladies Masters, and Lydia Ko. The 15-year-old Korean-New Zealander, who won the New Zealand Women’s Open last week, is seeking her second LPGA win. She won the Canadian Women’s Open last year, becoming the youngest amateur golfer to win an LPGA event. At the Women’s Australian Open, she will be paired with Tseng in the first round. Korean-American Michelle Wie will also play in the same group.
Also competing are Australia’s Karrie Webb, American Lexi Thompson, Laura Davies of the United Kingdom, and Tiger Wood’s niece, Cheyenne Woods.
By Moon Gwang-lip [email@example.com]