Six Aussies chasing glory at year’s first major

A customary top-five finish first up for 2021 and an impressive record at the event will see West Australian Minjee Lee lead the Aussie charge at the first major championship of the year, the ANA Inspiration in California.

All up there are six Aussies who will endeavour to emulate Karrie Webb’s wins in 2000 and 2006 at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club with Lee still chasing that breakthrough major triumph.

The uncertainty around travel in the time of COVID-19 meant that Lee, fellow Perth native Hannah Green and Su Oh all skipped the first three events of the 2021 LPGA Tour season but Lee in particular hit the ground running in last week’s Kia Classic.

Top 15 in seven of her 16 starts in a disrupted 2020 schedule, Lee was tied for fifth at the Kia Classic in what she will hope serves as the ideal tune-up for her eighth start at the ANA Inspiration where she was tied for third in 2017 and tied for seventh in September last year.

The 24-year-old fired one of the best scores of the final round last year to climb inside the top 10 and will return confident after a strong showing a week ago.

There was understandable rust in Green’s game in her first start for the year yet the 24-year-old boasts an asset few players in the field can match; major championship belief.

The 2019 Women’s PGA champion finished a frustrating 2020 campaign with a runner-up result at the CME Group Tour Championship and has a best finish of tied for 16th at the 2018 ANA Inspiration.

Tied for 15th playing as an amateur last year, Gabriela Ruffels will play her first major as a professional and like Lee comes into the tournament on the back of a top-five finish, outright fourth at the Symetra Tour’s IOA Championship.

The other Aussies in the field are Su Oh, Katherine Kirk and Sarah Kemp while Lydia Ko will fly the flag for the Kiwis as she seeks to repeat her one-stroke ANA Inspiration win five years ago.

With the countdown on to the men’s first major of the year at Augusta National next week, three Aussies are chasing a late invitation to The Masters by winning the Valero Texas Open.

After a torturous few days of being told he was in the field, bumped out by world No.1 Dustin Johnson and then back in again Rhein Gibson will be eager to take full advantage of the opportunity along with two of Australia’s Camerons, Percy and Davis.

There is a strong contingent of Aussies on the Korn Ferry Tour again this week including veterans Robert Allenby, Rod Pampling and Mark Hensby along with hungry youngsters Brett Coletta, Ryan Ruffels, Curtis Luck and Harrison Endycott.

Round 1 tee times AEDT

ANA Inspiration
Mission Hills Country Club (Dinah Shore Tournament Cse), Rancho Mirage, California
1.21am*              Gabriela Ruffels, Michelle Wie West, Ashleigh Buhai
1.32am Su Oh, Haru Nomura, Stephanie Meadow
1.32am*              Hannah Green, Hinako Shibuno, Brooke M. Henderson
2.05am*              Minjee Lee, Lydia Ko, Madelene Sagstrom
2.27am Katherine Kirk, Christina Kim, Brittany Lang
7.28am Sarah Kemp, Jaye Marie Green, Linnea Strom

Defending champion: Mirim Lee
Past Aussie winners: Karrie Webb (2000, 2006)
Top Aussie prediction: Minjee Lee
TV schedule: Live 3am-7am Friday, Saturday; Live 8am-11am Sunday, Monday on Fox Sports 503.

Valero Texas Open
TPC San Antonio (Oaks Cse), San Antonio, Texas
11.47pm              Cameron Percy, Sam Ryder, Erik van Rooyen
11.47pm*            Cameron Davis, Ben Martin, Abraham Ancer
12.20am              Danny Lee, Ryan Armour, Wesley Bryan
1.15am Rhein Gibson, Roger Sloan, Sam Bennett

Defending champion: Corey Conners (2019)
Past Aussie winners: Joe Kirkwood Snr (1924), Bruce Crampton (1964), Adam Scott (2010), Steven Bowditch (2014)
Top Aussie prediction: Cameron Davis
TV schedule: Live 7am-10am Friday, Saturday; Live 3am-8am Sunday, Monday on Fox Sports 503.

Korn Ferry Tour
Emerald Coast Classic at Sandestin
Sandestin Resort – Raven GC, Destin, Florida
11pm     Jamie Arnold, Zack Sucher, Tyson Alexander
11.20pm*            Brett Drewitt, Lee Hodges, Scott Langley
11.30pm              Brett Coletta, Mito Pereira, Charlie Saxon
11.30pm*            Mark Hensby, Dan McCarthy, Martin Piller
11.50pm*            Curtis Luck, Matt Every, Brett Stegmaier
12.10am*            Ryan Ruffels, Mark Blakefield, Jake Knapp
4.50am Robert Allenby, Sangmoon Bae, Dawie van der Walt
5am*     Steven Alker, Evan Harmeling, Dylan Wu
5.10am Harrison Endycott, Paul Haley II, JT Griffin
5.20am*              Nick Voke, Max Greyserman, Theo Humphrey
5.50am*              Rod Pampling, Garrett Osborn, Dylan Meyer

Defending champion: Inaugural event
Past Aussie winners: Nil
Top Aussie prediction: Harrison Endycott

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