World No. 1 Lydia Ko has made her first appearance in Adelaide as preparations begin for the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, beginning Thursday at revered Royal Adelaide Golf Club.
Ko, the 20-year-old New Zealander who has taken the golf world by storm in the past few years, was at Glenelg Beach for a short media conference along with tour player and friend, Christina Kim, and also met with the South Australian Minister for Sport, Leon Bignell.
The tournament has had strong support from the SA Government through the South Australian Tourism Corporation, with the Open being played in Adelaide for the second-year of a minimum three-year commitment by Golf Australia.
Ko, who won the Open at Royal Melbourne two years ago, was runner-up to Japan's Haru Nomura at The Grange last year, with Nomura shooting a remarkable 65. "If I made a birdie, she was there you know, alongside,'' said Ko today. "But it's great to be back in Adelaide and hopefully we're going to have some great weather alongside some great golf.''
Ko has a new coach, South African Gary Gilchrist, and a new caddie, Gary Matthews, as well as new equipment at the start of the new LPGA Tour season, but says the host of changes are more coincidental than a sign that she was unhappy with the back half of 2016.
"A lot of things have changed, but it's exciting times,'' she said. "I'm confident in the team that I've chosen and equipment-wise, too. I think it's more the excitement factor. I'm not worrying about 'hey is this going to work out'?''
Ko defender her decision to make the changes. "Even though I might be the No. 1-ranked player I still feel there's a lot of aspects of my game that I can improve on. No matter what ranking you have, you've got to have that mindset. There's always a position for you to get better.''
Royal Adelaide looks a picture today as players roll into town for Thursday's opening round.
The field includes not only Ko as world No. 1 but the No. 2 player, Thai sensation Ariya Jutanugarn, plus two others from the top 10, Brooke Henderson of Canada and South Korea's Ha Na Jang.
Also playing are American Michelle Wie and all the top Australians such as Perth's Minjee Lee, the world No. 17, and five-time winner Karrie Webb.