(Sydney, Australia, February 26 2003) Defending champion Karrie Webb from Australia heads into Thursday’s $Aus500,000 AAMI Women’s Australian Open as strong favourite to win her third national title at Terrey Hills Golf and Country Club in Sydney, the first time the event has been played in Australia’s biggest city for 25 years.
The 28-year-old from Ayr in Queensland will have to contend with a considerable foreign challenge with England’s Laura Davies leading the way and aiming to win back-to-back titles after completing her 65th career victory at last week’s ANZ Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast.
Davies, with a new found confidence with her driver, missing from her considerable arsenal over the last couple of seasons, rates the course ‘perfect’ for her big hitting style.
“My confidence is back,” admitted Davies, who defeated Webb in front of her home fans last week at Royal Pines to continue her record of winning at least once each year in her 17 seasons as a professional.
“I’m now looking forward to this year after a great start last week. Over the last couple of years I haven’t really played that well, but I’ve nicked the odd win and now I’m hitting my driver straighter than ever which is a big plus. The course is in great shape and it definitely suits the big hitters.”
Narrow fairways, deep pot bunkers, an abundance of water and heavily undulating greens are the hallmark of this Graham Marsh designed course, but with all but one of the par fives in range for Davies and light rough, it is almost tailor made for the Britain’s finest ever female golfer.
Webb, who defeated Norway’s Suzann Pettersen in a playoff last year at Yarra Yarra GC in Melbourne, is delighted that the event has returned to Sydney and believes she is ready to win her third Australian Open title.
“It’s a great course and will suit good ball strikers,” said Webb who tied for second alongside Australian rookie Rebecca Stevenson last week.
“I reckon that around ten under par should win this week. The par-fives are in range and there is not much rough to speak of, but it’s a tight course and it can catch you out.
“I liked Yarra Yarra, I had a good record there, but it’s good to change and it gives the people of Sydney a chance to see the best players in the world out here this week.
“I felt good last week and just didn’t finish it off. I didn’t play the back nine very well each day but I’m happy with the way my game is so early in the season.”
Joining the two legends of the game are most of Europe’s top players including Spain’s Paula Marti who finished tied for eighth last week and Denmark’s Iben Tinning who closed in fifth spot.
The last time the event was played in Sydney in 1978 at the nearby Manly GC, American Debbie Austin took the spoils and this week’s strong contingent from the USA should not be discounted.
Young Americans Beth Bauer and Natalie Gulbis – who finished first and second respectively in the 2002 LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year standings – will be joining compatriots Laura Diaz and Kelly Robbins as the mainstay of the US challenge.
Bauer, 23, impressed many with her efforts during 2002 winning the LPGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year Award with six top-10s and finished 18th on the LPGA Money List with almost US$500,000 in earnings.
Gulbis, a 20-year-old from Sacramento, finished in the top 10 on the LPGA Tour on four occasions in 2002 and posted a top-40 finish on the LPGA Money List.