Date: February 15, 2016
Author: LPGA

Things to watch at The Grange this week

No. 1 Lydia KO is back to defend

Lydia Ko will make the first of her five title defense this week at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. Ko fired a 2-under par on Sunday a year ago at Royal Melbourne to hold off a strong final round charge from Amy Yang.

The final round didn’t amount to the easy stroll Ko enjoyed up the 18th fairway, though. Early in the round, Ko seemed out of whack, making bogey on the first hole and then missing a seven-foot birdie putt on the par-5 second. All of a sudden she trailed. But with Ko, no lead is ever safe as she’s proven with four prior come-from-behind Sunday victories, and the very next hole Ko drained the shot of the day, holing a pitch shot on the short par-4 third for an eagle to send the roars ripping through Royal Melbourne and gave Ko a lead she would not relinquish.

The victory in Melbourne was just the beginning of a great season for Ko, who went on to win five times in 2015 en route to earning Rolex Player of the Year Honors.

Beginning just her third season on Tour, Ko has rewritten the record books with 11 wins, becoming the youngest player in LPGA Tour history (18y/6m/1d) to reach 10 career wins and besting Nancy Lopez’s record (22y/2m/5d) by more than 3½ years. Additionally, Ko won her first major at the 2015 Evian Championship to become the youngest major winner in LPGA Tour history (18y/4m/20d), beating Morgan Pressel’s previous record (18y/10m/9d) and was the youngest male or female major winner in the modern era and youngest since Young Tom Morris (17y/5m/8d) at the 1868 Open Championship.

Ko enters this week in good form coming off a win at the New Zealand Women’s Open and a tie for third finish at the Coates Golf Championship in her first two events of 2016.

Karrie Webb makes 2016 debut at ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

LPGA Hall of Famer Karrie Webb will make her 2016 debut in her home country this week at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

Webb enters the 2016 season with 41 career LPGA Tour victories and is tied for 10th on the LPGA’s all-time wins list with Founder Babe Zaharias.

Australia has been good to Webb in her career on Tour as she has captured four titles Down Under – the 2014 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, 2000 Australian Ladies Masters, 1999 Australian Ladies Masters and the 1998 Australian Ladies Masters

In her most recent victory at the 2014 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, Webb overcame a five-shot deficit on a wind-swept Sunday to best Chella Choi at Victoria Golf Club.

Minjee Lee is the top ranked Aussie in the field

Minjee Lee enters this week’s ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open as the highest ranked Australian in the field at No. 18 in the latest Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. 

Lee is coming off a stellar debut season on the LPGA Tour in 2015 where she captured the Kingsmill Championship for her first career win and added six additional top-10 finishes earning $821,121, good for 16th on the LPGA Money List.

In her first two events of 2016, Lee has made both cuts with finishes of T21 and T40 respectively at the PureSilk Bahamas LPGA Classic and the Coates Golf Championship.

The Perth native will be looking to better her best finish at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open of T7 last year at Royal Melbourne.

As of today, both Lee and Karrie Webb would represent Australia on the 2016 Olympic Team.

UL international crown implications for team Australia

With less than two months left before teams lock for the second edition of the UL International Crown, Team Australia (384) is holding a narrow edge over Team China (418) for the final spot in the field.

This week at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open the top-5 Aussies will all be competing and looking to move up in the standings.

The field of eight countries will be determined by the combined Rolex World Ranking of the top four players from each country as of the Rolex World Rankings published on April 4th, 2016. Below is the current roster for Team Australia.

8             Australia                   384

                Minjee Lee                   18

                Karrie Webb                34

                Rebecca Artis           128

                Su-Hyun Oh               204

                Sarah Jane Smith    208

                Christine Wolf          223

The 2016 UL International Crown will take place July 19-24 at Merit Club just outside of Chicago.

Ha Na Jang coming off first LPGA victory

It seemed like only a matter of time before Ha Na Jang broke through for her first victory on the LPGA Tour after four runner-up showings in her rookie season of 2015.

Jang broke through in  a big way at the Coates Golf Championship Presented by R&L Carriers two weeks ago in Ocala, Fla. Needing a par at the last, Ha Na Jang hit her third shot into the par-5 18th to five feet and drained the birdie putt for her first LPGA victory .

Jang celebrated as only she could by turning her putter into a samurai sword, laughing and then immediately began to cry in the rain as her dad raced over to embrace her.  The celebration went viral and leaves fans wondering – “What will Jang do for an encore?”