The first Ladies European Tour event of the year begins on Thursday, when the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open gets underway at Commonwealth Golf Club in Melbourne.Here we look at how the main contenders fared in 2010 and who is likely to begin their 2011 campaign in style.

Yani Tseng The World Number 5

Yani Tseng The World Number 5 and 21-year-old from Chinese Taipei is defending champion in Melbourne and last year became the youngest player in history to win three career major championships when she won two of the four majors – the Kraft Nabisco Championship and Ricoh Women’s British Open. Last year, she won by a three stroke margin over Laura Davies with a total of 283, nine-under-par at Commonwealth Golf Club and will be looking to keep her perfect record intact on the sand belt layout. She is also keen to buy a yellow Laborghini so will have her eye fixed firmly on the prize.

Jiyai Shin The World Number 1 and 22 year old from Korea joined the LET in 2010 after she won the Evian Masters presented by Societe Generale in France. Last year she also won the Mizuno Classic and had ten top 10 finishes on Tour. She loves singing and released a single in Korea a couple of years ago. With an Australian team including long-time caddie Dean Herden (originally from Beckom near Wagga Wagga) and fitness trainer Richard Nizielski – a triple Winter Olympian speed skater and bronze medallist in Lillehammer in 1994 – she will feel right at home in Melbourne. Shin is ready to go one better at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open than her runner-up finish at Kingston Heath in 2008.

Laura Davies Laura Davies will spearhead the English challenge once again after finishing second to Tseng at Commonwealth Golf Club last year. The 2009 Australian Open champion at Metropolitan, another sand belt course, will be eager to capture her 80th career title after five LET wins in 2010, in New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Spain and India. She currently leads the standings for The 2011 European Solheim Cup Team standings and will be aiming to make her 12th appearance at the competition in Ireland this September. She loves Australia and says it feels like home: just like England, but hotter!

Karrie Webb Described by Peter Thomson as Australia’s greatest golfer, Webb will be attempting to win the title for the fifth time following her wins in 2000, 2002, 2007 and most recently in 2008 at Kingston Heath Golf Club. She was third last year at Commonwealth Golf Club, just four strokes behind the winner. The Queenslander has 50 wins to her credit, including seven major championships and seven ANZ RACV Ladies Masters titles.

Lee-Anne Pace The 29-year-old South African will be desperate to top the leader boards again after winning the 2010 Henderson Money List and LET Players’ Player of the Year titles in December. She was victorious five times last season in Switzerland, Wales, Finland and twice in China, but last year missed the cut at the Handa Australian Open. She will relish her second assault on the Commonwealth layout, where the weather is likely to be her liking! Forecasts are for South African style temperatures: in the high 30s (102 F).

Melissa Reid The 23-year-old English star is determined to improve on her third place finish at Kingston Heath in 2008 and at Metropolitan in 2009. After claiming her maiden title at the 2010 Turkish Airlines Ladies Open, this could be her year. The 2008 leading rookie has been a runner-up six times on the Ladies European Tour in three seasons and finished third five times, including at last year’s season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters. She has also shown signs of her potential at some of the LET’s biggest tournaments and will relish taking on the best players in the world.

Gwladys Nocera The 2008 LET No.1 is always one to watch but even more so now that she has found her feet on the LPGA. The three-time European Solheim Cup star will bring added confidence from her second place finish at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge and will be targeting her 11th LET win.

Katherine Hull The World Number 18 and 28-year-old from Queensland won the 2010 Navistar LPGA Classic and finished runner-up at the Ricoh Women’s British Open. She is a keen surfer and heavily involved in charity work through the Golf Fore Africa program. She tied for fourth at last year’s Handa Women’s Australian Open and will be especially popular with the home crowd.

Alexis Thompson This year, as usual, there are plenty of hugely talented young players looking for their first professional win at Commonwealth Golf Club. American Alexis Thompson could be the one. She turned pro at 15 last year and won more than $330,000 from five starts. She will turn 16 the following week.

Caroline HedwallStardom beckons for Caroline Hedwall, the talented 21-year-old Swede who won the New South Wales Women’s Open on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf (ALPG) Tour a fortnight ago. Hedwall, who topped the qualifiers for the Ladies European Tour 2011 season at Q-School in December, was the 2008 World Amateur Champion and looks destined to be the next big thing following in the footsteps of great Swedes such as Anna Nordqvist and Annika Sorenstam. She will be one of the rookies to watch while there will also be a number of promising amateurs in the field. The 13-year-old Kiwi Lydia Ko finished runner-up to Hedwall in New South Wales while 19-year-old Ashley Ona won the ActewAGL Royal Canberra Ladies Classic on the ALPG Tour over the weekend.

All four rounds of the championship are being covered live by ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Days and Times (all in Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time ) Thurs 3 Feb: 15.00 – 18.00 Friday 4 Feb: 15.00 – 18.00 Saturday 5 Feb: 14.00 – 18.00 Sunday 6 Feb: 13.00 – 18.00 The 2011 ISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open will be played at Commonwealth Golf Club from 3- 6 February.

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