Fifteen major champions. That’s the number that depicts the strength of the field for the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Adelaide Golf Club in February.
It is a stunning validation of the event which was moved to Adelaide in 2016 that more than 10 percent of the 144-player field has triumphed at the highest level of the sport.
And those 15 do not include world No. 3 Nelly Korda, the defending champion from the United States, and the highest ranked player in the field. Nor does it include Australia’s Minjee Lee, the world No. 9, who is striving to win her first national championship. Both of these brilliant, young players will surely add a major to their resumes soon enough.
Put simply, it is a supreme field for the playing of the national Open at a storied venue on the Adelaide sandbelt, one of the finest golf courses in the world. Those 15 major winners are a who’s who of golf.
Firstly, there are the legends: seven-time major winner and World Golf Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, a five-time winner of the Women’s Australian Open, and England’s power hitter Dame Laura Davies, victor in four major championships. Between them, they have won more than 130 golf tournaments over the past 30 years. They are golfing royalty.
There are the veterans: American Cristie Kerr returns with her bulldog competitiveness, and the South Koreans Na Yeon Choi and Jiyai Shin, both dominant players in recent years, are teeing it up. Although she is only 22 years of age, New Zealander Lydia Ko slots in that category on the basis of raw achievement; she is a former world No. 1 and a two-time major winner.
Then there are the current-day superstars of the sport who have also won majors: Georgia Hall and Koreans Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu. Park’s appearance is her first in an Australian Open since Royal Melbourne in 2012; a delightful presence with the game to match, she is a most welcome addition to any golf tournament in Australia. Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg and Anna Norqvist and Americans Stacy Lewis and Morgan Pressel round out that group.
Finally, the youth brigade are in action at Royal Adelaide. Australia’s Hannah Green and Korea’s Jeongeun Lee6 have both won majors at the tender age of 23, Green taking the Women’s PGA Championship and Lee the US Women’s Open in 2019. They are sensational ambassadors for their sport.
“This is another incredibly good field that has been assembled,” said Stephen Pitt, Golf Australia’s chief executive.
“Clearly the wonderful Adelaide golf courses and the overall vibe of the city at that time has been a winner for us with the players. We’ve had some record crowds and huge interest in recent years and we’re looking forward to pushing those boundaries again in 2020.’’
Overall, the field will include three players from the world’s top 10 (Korda, Minjee Lee and Jeongeun Lee6), and six of the top 20 – adding Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu and Lizette Salas.
Premier Steven Marshall said the event remained one of the most popular sporting events in SA, with strong crowds and an approximate $20 million injection into the state’s economy in the last four years - a significant flow-on benefit to hotels, restaurants, cafes and other local businesses.
“It is fantastic to see we have attracted another strong line up of players from around the world, all ready to stake their claim as the Australian Open title holder,” he said.
“This is the perfect opportunity for us to showcase South Australia to potential tourists and fans watching right around the globe, and another recognition that our events are world-class and well and truly on the international sporting radar.”
ISPS Handa executive director Midori Miyazaki said she was excited to see golf’s crème de la crème grace the Royal Adelaide fairways.
“It is brilliant to see 15 major champions come to Adelaide to play in the national championship, including ISPS Handa ambassadors Dame Laura Davies and Lydia Ko,” Miyazaki said.
“It is a massive bonus to an already fantastic field and on behalf of ISPS Handa, we wish all players the best.”
The ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open runs from 13-16 February.
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