Date: June 18, 2014
Author: Martin Blake /

Webb heads Aussie charge at U.S Women’s Open

<image="1" align="left" />Karrie Webb heads a field of eight Australians in the US Women's Open at Pinehurst No. 2 tomorrow, chasing her third Open title.

 Webb, who turns 40 later this year, won the Women's US Open in 2000 and 2001 when she was the best player in the world. But more than a decade on, the Queenslander remains a force in women's golf, ranked fifth in the world and twice a winner on the LPGA Tour in 2014. Along with Americans Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie and South Korea's Inbee Park, she will be among the favorites this week.

 She practised earlier this week with several of the Australian contingent, including 18-year-old amateur Minjee Lee, a member of Golf Australia's national squad and the world's No. 1-ranked amateur.

 Western Australian Lee has come to North Carolina not merely to tee it up and enjoy the tournament as she winds down her amateur career and prepares to turn professional. She played in the LPGA Championship earlier this season on invitation, and finished tied-24th to show her mettle. She has the ability to contend this week, a fact confirmed by the veteran Laura Davies, who practised with her today and pronounced her "amazing''.

 Davies, who won the Open in 1987, has played with Lee in Australia before and knows her game. "I played a lot with Minjee during competition,'' the Englishwoman said. "And all she's ever done has impressed me. She's getting longer and longer off the tee, she's getting bigger and stronger and first time I played with her, I think she was 15. Obviously (she) didn't hit it that far, but now she's got the full game and a good head. There's a good example of letting a youngster play in the top level events when you are really young, because she's coming through in leaps and bounds and I think she's going to be one for the future, for sure.'' 

Several of the Australians are having their first start in a US Open including Stephanie Na, who came through qualifying.

 The talk at Pinehurst today was about the course, which proved tough for the men in the US Open last week. Only three players broke par in that tournament, headed by Germany's Martin Kaymer. But the course has been shortened for the women and the USGA also had the greens watered to make them more receptive. 

The other talking point has been the appearance of Lucy Li, the 11-year-old Californian who is set to become the youngest-ever competitor after progressing through qualifying. While some professionals have cautioned against the dangers of such a young girl playing at the highest level, others have been more pragmatic.

 Davies, who won the Open as far back as 1987, wondered what advice would be of use to an 11-year-old. But she was supportive. "If you can play the golf and you can qualify, then have a go,'' she said. "What's the worst that can happen? She shoots a million this week and everyone says, wasn't it great she was here? So I don't think anything bad can come out of it, because she's too young to worry about the pressure. I imagine she wouldn't have any pressure on her because she's just having fun, she's got a week off school, it's perfect.''