Seven-time major champion Karrie Webb has confirmed she will “dust off the clubs” for this year’s Australian Open, with the men’s and women’s tournaments joining forces in a world-first.
The event, which will be played on Melbourne’s famous sandbelt in early December, will see the men and women compete for an equal split of the prizemoney, which will be a minimum of $3.4 million. It’s the first time a national open has played the men’s and women’s events on the same course at the same time.
Victoria Golf Club will serve as the host venue, with Kingston Heath also being used on the opening two days of the tournament.
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Webb has won the tournament a record five times, with her two most recent wins coming at the courses that will host this year’s event.
“I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to play both of these courses, I’ve played Australian Opens at Vic(toria) and Kingston Heath and did pretty well at both,” she said.
“(My game is) more dusty than normal, I did play a tournament in Florida in January, and plan to play a couple in the summer over in the States, so it won’t be too far away.
“Melbourne golf courses are a challenge at the best of times, so we’ll see how it goes.”
For the first time, the men’s tournament will be co-sanctioned with the European Tour, increasing the likelihood of Golf Australia attracting some big names for the event.
“This truly is a coup for Australian golf – it presents a great opportunity for the game and will take the two Open championships to another level,” said Golf Australia boss James Sutherland.
“We’ve seen the success of the Vic Open in this format, and more recently the Webex Players Series where men and women play for the same title.
“We’re incredibly excited to be able to make this announcement.”
The men’s tournament has a storied history, counting legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson amongst its former winners.
Sutherland pointed out that Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy had both won the event in the last decade, while the current top three players in the women’s game, Jin Young, Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko, have all claimed the Australian Open title.
He noted that the new format will still preserve the history of both tournaments.
“The men are still playing for their own Australian Open title for the Stonehaven Cup, and the women for the Patricia Bridges Bowl. Both trophies have been won by some of the best golfers to play the game,” he said.
“We have huge aspirations for this event. This new format will provide the springboard for a wonderful celebration of golf.”
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