Date: February 08, 2012

Stars align for the sternest test

This week is big. The World Number 1, Yani Tseng is looking for an unprecedented third consecutive ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open title. Her challengers include World Number 2 Suzann Pettersen, World Number 4 Cristie Kerr, World Number 7 Jiyai Shin, World Number 9 Stacy Lewis, World Number 10 Brittany Lincicome and World Number 19 Karrie Webb. Tseng s memories of Melbourne are predictably positive, particularly last year. That was one of my best memories ever. I played at Commonwealth the last two years. I am very happy to be back here and play Royal Melbourne. I played nine holes yesterday. It is an unbelievable golf course. It was pretty tough. The greens were fast. I am very excited and can&apost wait to go out and have fun, Tseng said. I think you will have to play very well to win this tournament. We have a good field this week and a great golf course. The course is not long but you need to be very focused. Every shot. If you just mis-focus on one shot, you can get in big trouble. This week will be like a major course, she added. World Number 16 Morgan Pressel feels the same with the major connections. I&aposm looking forward to it. I think it will be a fun test this week. Any time we can play one of the best courses in the world is a special week. We play a lot of nice courses on tour but we don&apost play a great number of the truly best courses. We play the US Open every year on a spectacular golf course, like Oakmont and Pinehurst coming up. To play a course like this is definitely a treat for us. For four time champion Webb, who feels it has been a great start to the year already, the course and any weather leaves many things unknown. I really don&apost have a feel at all. I don&apost think there will be low scores. It really depends on the weather. If get some wind out here, that changes everything. Even yesterday, it was not a strong breeze, but that south-westerly is heavier than the northerly. Even though it feels like it is a five yard breeze, it is playing as a club breeze. That is the challenge, to work that out in the next couple of days, Webb said. A lot of the girls over there practise on quality golf courses that get their greens up to a pretty quick pace. It is more than pace here. It is the slope. You can have a downhill putt and know it is going to be quick. Yesterday I still hit one six feet past after telling myself it was quick, Webb added. The European challengers will be many. Laura Davies, a two time past champion played a practice round on Tuesday, a rare sight for someone who likes to arrive, play the pro-am and be ready for the opening round. Melissa Reid, who was the runner-up in 2011, is another of the leading Europeans who have shown a flair for the sandbelt in the past. Swede Sophie Gustafson, the 2001 champion, is also in the field and keen to make an impact. On course that has the sharpest of teeth, the challenger will be the one first to bite back.