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Aussies in with a show at US Women's Open

(Photo: Henry Peters)
Six Australians take to the Trump National Course in Bedminster, New Jersey for this week’s US Women’s Open and in a boon for local fans, five of them should be considered legitimate title contenders.

While on paper the Australian contingent won’t start favourites at women's golf's third major championship for 2017, Katherine Kirk, Minjee Lee, Karrie Webb, Su Oh and Sarah Jane Smith all have reasons to be confident ahead of the gun going off Thursday.

Amateur Robyn Choi is the sixth Australian in the field and while a victory would seem unlikely, she has already impressed, making the field via sectional qualifying - an achievement in its own right.

For our more seasoned professionals, though, the focus will be the trophy and all will have high hopes of claiming just the fourth Australian victory at what is widely considered the most prestigious major in the women's game.

Webb already has two US Open titles on her resume, and while she has been far from her best in 2017, it would be foolhardy to rule out a competitor of her pedigree.

A revered figure not only in Australia but on the world stage, Webb is capable of lifting at the biggest events and her track record confirms her superior skill set.

The now 42-year-old has competed in the US Women’s Open 21 times and missed the cut on just three occasions, the last of those coming a decade ago.

While Webb is unquestionably capable, the more fancied Australian chances will come from the remaining four in the field with Lee rightfully leading the list of most likely.

Australia’s highest world ranked player, the 21-year-old has been in good form for most of 2017 with six top-10 finishes in 14 starts including a T3 at the year’s first major, the ANA inspiration.

Lee will be smarting from her performance at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship a fortnight ago where she never got out of second gear, and with three LPGA victories already to her name, is undoubtedly ready to step up to the next level.

An improvement in her play from 90 metres and in has led to consistently better scoring in 2017 and while the Trump National layout is an unknown, the demands of a US Open setup should favour her style of play.

Smith, too, has been on an upward curve in terms of her play in 2017 and was the leading Australian at the Women's PGA.

A second round 67 at Olympia Fields was impressive golf on a course not conducive to low numbers and Smith will have taken a lot of confidence from the way she handled the pressure of contending at the weekend.

Having reunited with former coach Sean Foley in 2016, Smith’s game has turned a corner and the rediscovered confidence has shown in her results.

While Smith has been on a steady trajectory of improvement, fellow Queenslander Katherine Kirk bolted from nowhere last week to claim her first LPGA Tour victory in seven years.

A mainstay on the LPGA since 2004, Kirk’s confidence will be at an all-time high after she played some brilliant golf in Wisconsin, including a career best 9-under 63 on day two.

After some lean years recently, it was an impressive display from the 35-year-old, whose 72nd hole-birdie under the most intense pressure imaginable was a standout moment.

One of the most popular players on Tour, Kirk will be dealing with plenty of attention this week but Olympian Oh will likely fly under the radar.

Having undertaken a major swing overhaul with coach Cameron McCormick earlier in the year, Oh’s results have been less than she would have wanted but there have been glimmers of hope in recent weeks.

A T4 at the Meijer LPGA Classic three weeks ago suggests her game is coming around and an opening 68 at the Women's PGA had her well in the mix after day one.

Having faded over the final three days, Oh will be motivated to make amends this week and could well be one to watch.


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