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Stars come out for tense LPGA showdown

SIXTEEN of the world's top 19 players tee it up on the LPGA Tour as the two antagonists from the Solheim Cup controversy are paired together.

TOURNAMENT organisers for the Coates Golf Championship have given golf fans even more reason to tune in to the action in Florida by producing some mouth-watering opening round pairings.

The second tournament of the new LPGA Tour season will be highlighted by the pairing of Alison Lee and Suzann Pettersen, the players at the heart of last year's Solheim Cup concession controversy.

The American 20-year-old and Norwegian veteran will be joined by American World Number Three Stacy Lewis for the first and second rounds, Lewis playing down the possible tension between her playing partners.

"Why not just get it out of the way and get it over with?" said Lewis in the lead-up to this week's event.

"I think they’re both ready to move on. It’s just every time they’re paired together it’s going to be brought up."

While it's unlikely that words will be exchanged or tempers will flare between the duo more than five months after the incident, the pairing does add another storyline to an already intriguing tournament.

Sixteen of the world's top 19 players will tee it up at Golden Ocala Golf Club with a share of the $US1.5 million purse and important world ranking points up for grabs.

All eyes will be on World Number One Lydia Ko as she makes her 2016 debut at the tournament where she finished runner-up last year. The New Zealander is paired with American duo Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel.

And for some perspective on Ko's incredible achievements to date, the 18-year-old informed the press in her pre-tournament press conference that the highlight of her off-season was getting her learner's drivers license.



Canadian rising star Brooke M. Henderson is backing it up from last week's season-opener in the Bahamas, the 18-year old the lowest-ranked player in her group at 17th in the world.

She'll be joined on Thursday and Friday by American World Number Four Lexi Thompson and runner-up last week Anna Nordqvist, the Swede currently sitting at 13th in the world.

Only three Australians are in the field in Florida, backing it up after mixed fortunes in their opening hit outs.

Teenager Minjee Lee is our best hope, the 19-year-old coming off a rookie season on the LPGA Tour that yielded a maiden victory and lifted her to World Number 18.

Lee will enter this week full of confidence, after a stunning 7-under 66 on Sunday last week took her to a share of 21st position on the leader board.

She tees off in a Thursday morning group alongside Spaniard Carlota Ciganda and last weekend's hole-in-one hero Ha Na Jang of South Korea.

Following Lee in Thursday's afternoon wave of players will be countrywomen Sarah Kemp and Sarah Jane Smith.

Kemp failed to find her rhythm last week in the Bahamas, with a best round of 2-under 71 on Sunday and a worst of 2-over 75 in Thursday's second round to finish in a share of 67th.

Compatriot Smith withdrew last week after an opening round of 5-over 78 citing illness, but will tee off in Thursday's final trio off the course's 10th tee.

Of the top 19 players on the world rankings, only World Number Two Inbee Park, Number Eight Shanshan Fang of China and South Korean Number 15 Bo-Mee Lee are not teeing it up.

10 Questions with sarah kemp:


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