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Keating closes in on top 100

Stacey Keating will be one of the players to watch at this week's Australian Open.

Stacey Keating will be one of the players to watch at this week's Australian Open. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Six days was all it took for Stacey Keating to get over her British Open disaster and prove why she's one of Australia's rising stars.

Having left the disappointment of getting disqualified from last year's major well and truly behind her, the 26-year-old Victorian will be one of the players to watch at this week's Australian Open, starting Thursday at Royal Canberra.

Some of the world's best players arrived in Canberra on Monday, including world No. 3, Stacy Lewis, 2009 major winner Brittany Lincicome and Michelle Wie.

While Keating doesn't boast their profiles, she's on her way to becoming the next big thing in Australian women's golf.

Two top-10 finishes in her most recent events, the Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast and a third place at last weekend's New Zealand Open in Christchurch, suggests Keating will be in the mix when the championship is on the line.

She has risen 20 places in the world rankings this week to slide inside the top 100 for the first time, sitting at No. 87.

Keating is coming off a breakthrough season which included two victories on the European Tour.

Both came in the wake of her darkest hour when she was rubbed out of the British Open for lodging an incorrect scorecard.

Keating was inconsolable, but showed incredible strength to record back-to-back wins in the Spanish Open and the following week at the Lacoste Ladies Open in France.

''It's still disappointing for me, but it was a major, I was playing well and I'd made the cut, but in the big scheme of things it doesn't matter,'' Keating said.

''I had no expectations going into Spain and I wasn't even that keen to play. I just played steady.

''Obviously it helped me in the end and I was lucky I had a lot of good friends around at the time.''

Keating keeps a close support network - her boyfriend doubles as her caddy while she has a mental coach (Dare2dream founder, Jamie Glazier) to cope with the ups and downs of the tour.

A standout as a junior, Keating has been on the radar since winning a Karrie Webb scholarship, giving her the priceless opportunity of following Australia's former world No. 1 at the US Open a few years ago.

There was understandably then plenty of nerves when they were paired up together at Royal Pines earlier this month, as Webb won her record eighth Ladies Masters title.

''I was very, very excited and she knew that, too, I think,'' Keating said.

''It's very exciting when anyone gets to play with their hero.

''It was even better that I played half decent, so it was kind of a big relief when I got the first one off the tee. I always learn a lot when I play with her, because I ask her as many questions as possible, even if I think I'm annoying her.''

Webb is part of a star-studded Australian Open field featuring world No. 1, Yani Tseng, defending champion Jessica Korda and teenage sensation Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old riding high after winning her third professional tournament, the New Zealand Open, last weekend.

And while Keating isn't making any outrageous statements about her chances, she hopes her experience playing at the Royal Canberra Ladies Classic works to her advantage.

''I don't really have high expectations by any means, I'd like to put a couple of decent scores and be thereabouts on the weekend. I really like that style of golf course with the massive trees on both sides,'' she said.

WOMEN'S AUSTRALIAN OPEN

At Royal Canberra Golf Course from Thursday to Sunday. Tickets available through Ticketek.

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