Tiger Woods' niece a drawcard at NZ Open

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2013
Cheyenne Woods
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KEEN INTEREST: Cheyenne Woods – the niece of Tiger – will be a drawcard at next month's women’s New Zealand Open in Christchurch.

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Lydia Ko could have plenty of competition for the biggest gallery at next month's women's New Zealand Open.

She might be ranked a lowly 577 in the world and in her first full professional season, but Cheyenne Woods will be one of the main drawcards at the February 8-10 event.

The niece of 14-times major winner Tiger Woods was yesterday confirmed for the three-round Christchurch tournament alongside an impressive list of others.

Woods is still making her way in the women's game, but does have a professional title from the low-key SunCoast Ladies series in Florida.

Still known more for being related to her uncle rather than her golf, the 22-year-old is talented.

An impressive collegiate career behind her at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, there is plenty of talk in the United States of Woods racing up the women's rankings in the coming years.

Woods, daughter of Tiger's older brother Earl Woods Jr, has come to terms with being known as "Tiger's niece", but having missed out on securing a full card for this year's LPGA and LET tours, she is determined to prove her ability.

Ranked more than 550 places ahead of Woods is the tournament's top player, American Angela Stanford.

Stanford is currently ranked at No 19 in the world and the 35-year-old has five LPGA Tour wins and seven top-10 finishes in women's majors.

To put Stanford's inclusion in the Clearwater tournament into perspective, Michael Hendry was the top ranked player at the men's open late last year and he was the 350th best player in the world at the time.

Ko, the world's top amateur, has been and will continue to be a major drawcard for tournament organisers, but they have plenty of them.

The tournament's four previous winners, including former world No 1 Laura Davies, will all start. Davies has won four women's majors and will be joined by Swedes Anna Nordqvist and Sophie Gustafson, also major winners.

Ko, 15, won't be the only talented youngster in the field. At 22, Spain's Carlota Ciganda is a veteran compared to Ko, but she is seen as one of the women's game's hottest young talents.

Like Ko, Ciganda has had an exemplary amateur career. She won the British Amateur in 2007 and the 2004 and 2008 European Championships.

Last year was her rookie professional season and she won the Ladies European Tour's Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year awards, becoming the first woman since Davies in 1985 to do so.

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New Zealand Golf boss Dean Murphy was beaming as he talked about the quality of the field for the fifth New Zealand Open.

"There is no doubt that this is the best field ever assembled for a women's golf event in New Zealand," he said.

"I am sure there will be huge interest in the performance of Lydia and the other Kiwis as they try to beat world-class golfers in front of their home fans."

- The Press

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