Ha Na Jang will be matched up again with Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko at this week’s ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
Jang overtook Ko in a head-to-head final-round duel to claim her first LPGA title two weeks ago at the Coates Golf Championship in Ocala, Fla. They’re paired together again in the first two rounds at The Grange Golf Club outside Adelaide along with Australia’s Minjee Lee.
Jang and Ko both take a lot of positive momentum into this week’s event. Ko, the defending champion of the Women’s Australian Open, is coming off a victory Sunday at the New Zealand Women’s Open. Jang has made big news in her last two starts. Before she won the Coates Golf Championship, Jang made history at the LPGA’s season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic, becoming the first player to make a hole in one on a par 4 in the tour’s 67-year history.
Jang and Ko were tied going into the final round in Ocala, but with Ko struggling early, Jang went on to win, finishing three shots ahead of Ko. After winning, Jang electrified the crowd with her “Samurai Lasso” celebration on the 18th green. Jang said Ko encouraged her to finish strong through the final round.
“Lydia is really my good friend,” Jang told media in Australia Tuesday in her pre-tournament news conference.
About that “Samurai Lasso” celebration, Jang said she grew up watching Tiger Woods and Christina Kim and liked their animated reactions on the golf course.
“This is my character and my image,” Jang said.
Jang moved to No. 9 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings after winning Coates. She and Ko are the only players among the top 10 in the world rankings in this week’s field.
Golf Channel is televising the Women’s Australian Open with coverage Wednesday (11 p.m.-2 a.m.), Thursday (11:30 p.m.-2 a.m.), Friday (11:30 p.m.-2 a.m.) and Saturday (9 p.m.-2 a.m.).
Here are two groups to keep an eye on in the first two rounds (Eastern times):
Karrie Webb, Laura Davies and Brooke Henderson: 9:20 p.m. Wednesday; 4:25 p.m., Thursday
The Aussie Webb is making her 2016 LPGA debut in an event where she has enjoyed enormous success. She is a five-time Women’s Australian Open winner. Like Webb, Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer. At just 18, Henderson is in a pairing with a pair of highly respected veterans. Henderson, who won as a 17-year-old in the LPGA’s Cambia Classic, finished second in her last start at Coates.
Lydia Ko, Ha Na Jang, Minjee Lee: 4:25 p.m. Wednesday; 9:20 p.m., Thursday
Ko, 18, won the Women’s Australian Open last year, finishing two shots ahead of Amy Yang, who isn’t in the field this week. Jang is going for back-to-back LPGA titles. Minjee Lee is a featured attraction as the highest ranked Australian in women’s golf.