LPGA Season Set to Start

The LPGA Tour season is about to begin. With its 2013 tournament schedule finalized in mid-January, the women's circuit opens with the $1.2 million Women's Australian Open, which tees off Thursday at Royal Canberra Golf Club.

Among the players in the field are No. 1-ranked Yani Tseng of Taiwan, South Koreans Na Yeon Choi, Jiyai Shin and Inbee Park, China's Shanshan Feng, and American Stacy Lewis.

With four victories last year, Lewis became the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to be named LPGA Player of the Year.

Despite a lackluster second half of 2012, Tseng - who won three titles through March - was still atop the Rolex World Rankings at season's end. Choi is next followed by Lewis, Park and Feng in the top five; Shin ranks eighth.

Returning to defend her title is American Jessica Korda. The 19-year-old survived a six-woman playoff at Royal Melbourne last year, sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the second overtime hole to defeat Brittany Lincicome, Lewis, Julieta Granada, Hee Kyung Seo and So Yeon Ryu.

Also entered is amateur sensation Lydia Ko. The 15-year-old New Zealander became the youngest-ever winner of an LPGA Tour event when she emerged victorious by three strokes in the Canadian Women's Open last August.

Teeing it up this week in Australia is Michelle Wie, who's coming off a poor season in which she missed the cut in 10 of 23 starts. Currently ranked 66th, the two-time LPGA winner is hoping for major improvements this year.

"2012 was probably the worst year I've ever had in my entire career," she said. "It was rough. One thing led to another and it kind of snowballed."

Wie knew she had to make changes over the winter to get back to being a world-class player. "I just really started from scratch," she told the media. "Some reporter asked me earlier on what I worked on in the off season and I replied: 'Everything.' That's really what I had to work on after last year.

"I saw (coach) David Leadbetter a lot this off-season, a lot more than I usually did and just really worked on my swing, my short game, my putting, everything. I wanted my game to be on a whole other level and hopefully 2013 will be really good."

Wie, who played several men's tour events as a teenager - failing to make the cut in each one, still has history-making aspirations and hopes one day to be invited to play in the Masters Tournament. "You've got to dream high, right? And that's definitely one of my dreams, to play in the Masters, but right now I'm just really focused on this year, this week," she said.

"You have to set up really high dreams, dreams that you may or may not achieve in your lifetime, but to still have them," Wie added. "I'm just really focused on winning tournaments this year, just being happy and enjoying golf."

The 72-hole Women's Australian Open will be aired all four days on Golf Channel. Live scoring can be found at http://www.lpgascoring.com/public/Leaderboard.

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