San Francisco (AFP) - World number one Lydia Ko and second-ranked Brooke Henderson, teen stars who battled into a playoff at last month's Women's PGA Championship, meet again with a major crown on the line starting Thursday at the US Women's Open.
Canadian 18-year-old Henderson birdied the first extra hole last month to claim her first major title and deny 19-year-old South Korean-born New Zealander Ko her third major win in a row.
"Lydia Ko is amazing. She's an inspiration to all of us out here and I think everyone in the world, basically," said Henderson. "She has done amazing things in her career and she's only a couple months older than I am. We're just trying to kind of chase after her and she showed us a lot of things that are possible."
"I hope we do have a lot of playoffs together for major championship wins, like we did a couple of weeks ago. That means I'm playing really well and that means she's playing really well. So that's what I'm kind of hoping for."
The two teen titans will be paired together in the first and second rounds at CordeValle in San Martin, California, alongside fourth-ranked American Lexi Thompson, the eldest of the trio at 21.
"I'm super excited with our pairing," Ko said. "This is a great pairing. I think a lot of people come out to watch Brooke, Lexi and I. With the top ranked players together like that, it's going to be really cool.
"We all learn from each other. we all feed off each other. It has been really cool to just be able to watch on the sidelines and see this great talent and great golf."
Henderson won her second consecutive LPGA Portland Classic last weekend, defending the crown that earned her a spot on the LPGA Tour last year.
"I'm still a long way from taking that number one spot over but I'm getting closer every single week," Henderson said.
"I'm just trying to focus on the little things that I know will make me better, working on short game, working on a little more consistency, and a little bit more yardage off the tee."
Either Ko or Henderson would become the youngest winner in US Women's Open history, breaking the age mark of just under 20 by South Korean Park In-Bee, the world number three absent this week with a left thumb injury.
"I've been very fortunate to have this opportunity to play on the tour that I've always dreamed of playing at a younger age," Ko said.
"Things have gone so much faster than I would have ever dreamed or imagined, but for me to even have a chance to be the youngest winner of this championship or these records, it's such a cool feeling just to experience that."
- Ko, Henderson heading for Rio -
Ko and Henderson both plan on battling for Olympic gold next month at the Rio Games, the first time women's golf has been on the Olympic agenda since 1900.
"Since they announced that golf would be in the Olympics, I said I want to get myself to Rio. That has been a huge goal of mine," Ko said. "For it to be within 35 days until the start, it's amazing. And to even think that I could possibly be an Olympian is just a dream come true.
"Just to have this opportunity to represent my country amongst those many other talented athletes is going to be a really cool thing."
Henderson said she suspects South Korea and the United States might field the toughest team, but she warned that she and compatriot Alena Sharp will contend for medals in the 72-hole stroke-play individual event as well.
"Anybody teeing it up four days against 60 players can really win," Henderson said. "We're just kind of building our way up to the Olympics. It will be really exciting."