Teenage rookie pro Minjee Lee is among four Australians preparing to contest the first women’s golf major of 2015, the ANA Inspiration, in California.
The former World No.1 amateur made a strong start to her pro tour career, though she has missed the cut at her last two LPGA Tour events.
She began the LPGA Tour season with as 12th placing at the Coates Championship in Florida then finished tied 27th in the Bahamas.
She returned home and posted her first LPGA top-10 as a pro in the Women’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne.
It was those three starts that earned her enough money to secure a spot in this week’s major at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, starting Thursday.
She played the event last year as an amateur, when it was known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and put in a very credible performance with rounds of 75 68 73 72 to finish at even-par and in a share of 24th.
Lee is joined in the field by fellow Australians Karrie Webb, Sarah Jane Smith and Katherine Kirk.
The defending champion is American Lexi Thompson who became the second youngest major champion in LPGA Tour history last year.
Lydia Ko, at 17 already the youngest golfer ever to reach No.1 in the world, will try to add a first major championship to her sparkling resume.
A victory would make the South Korean-born New Zealander the youngest major champion in LPGA history, surpassing American Morgan Pressel who was 18 when she lifted the trophy on the same Mission Hills Country Club Dinah Shore Tournament course in 2007.
Although Ko hasn’t finished in the top 25 in two prior appearances at Mission Hills, her remarkable recent consistency makes her the player to beat this week.
Ko brings a streak of 28 straight LPGA rounds under par into the tournament – one shy of matching the record set by Swedish great Annika Sorenstam in 2004.
“I wish I had that,” said Thompson, who out-duelled Michelle Wie to lift the trophy here last year.
“There’s not a weakness in her game,” Thompson said of Ko.
A victory would also help Ko consolidate her position atop the world rankings, with former world No.1 Park In-Bee of South Korea threatening to unseat her with a win or even a runner-up finish – depending on where Ko finishes.