Webb eyes record-breaking win at Ladies Masters

Defending champion Karrie Webb has spent the past two weeks battening down the hatches in more ways than one as she prepares for a tilt at a world record 9th victory in the Volvik RACV Australian Masters at RACV Royal Pines from February 6 -9.

The Gold Coast has basked in a warm, dry summer ensuring the golf course will be beautifully presented for the 25th staging of the event highlighted by another diverse, world class field assembled by tournament promoter, Bob Tuohy.

Karrie Webb Karrie Webb (Credit: Anthony Powter)

The event also reverts back to 72 holes this year after sponsorship difficulties saw the event reduced to 54 holes in 2013.

Last year, Webb caught and passed her less experienced rivals on the final day, including playing partner Jessica Korda, with a withering back nine run to secure her eighth title and the first of three victories in season 2013.

Webb has spent the past month in cyclone-affected North Queensland, interspersed with visits to the Gold Coast for sessions with coach Ian Triggs, in preparation for the start of her season and a chance to break out of the tie for the most wins in a professional event that she shares with the late Sam Snead.

Although Webb is the highest world ranked player in the field at No. 8, the inclusion of former No.1 and 2011 champion Yani Tseng along with Korda, a host of Europe’s victorious Solheim Cup winning team, a strong Korean contingent and some tournament-ready Australians will ensure Webb’s to victory will not be a walk in the park.

Korda returns to Royal Pines as a hot favourite after her thrilling win at the LPGA’s season opener in the Bahamas two weeks ago but will have to break with history to lift the crystal trophy on Sunday afternoon.

Amazingly, no American has won at Royal Pines and none have won the Ladies Masters since Jane Geddes’ back-to-back victories in the first two stagings of the event at Palm Meadows in 1990 and 1991.

Solheim Cup heroes Swede Caroline Hedwall and England’s Charley Hull will make bold claims to join their countrywomen who have their images displayed on the Champions Walk of Fame as winners at Royal Pines over the years.

Ranked 23rd in the world, Hedwall was the stand out player during the Solheim Cup last year, making history as the first player to win all five matches she was involved in during Europe’s dominant win over the U.S.

Making her first Masters appearance, 17-year old Hull was acclaimed Rookie of the Year on the Ladies European Tour last year, notching four consecutive runner-up finishes and another five top 10 finishes on the LET to finish sixth on the Order of Merit.

Along with Webb, the Australian challenge will be lead by Nikki Campbell, Stacey Keating, Sarah Kemp, Lindsey Wright, Katherine Hull-Kirk , Kristie Smith and Sarah-Jane Smith while Hedwall and Hull will be joined by fellow LET players headed by Gwladys Nocera, Lee-Ann Pace, Diana Luna, Giulia Sergas, Melissa Reid and popular three-time champion Laura Davies.

Also returning to Royal Pines will be Korea’s Chella Choi, ranked No. 29 in the world and looking improve on her tie for second behind Webb at Royal Pines in 2013, and Mi Hyang Lee who shot 63 on Sunday to claim victory by a stroke over Lydia Ko in the New Zealand Open in Christchurch.

The 25th Volvik RACV Ladies Masters will be broadcast ABC Sport, live throughout Australia, on Saturday 8 February between 2:00pm to 6:00pm and Sunday 9 February between 2:00pm to 6:00pm.