• Ruffels taking inspiration from major examples

Gabi Ruffels is only five tournaments into her rookie season on the LPGA Tour, however, she enters this week’s Chevron Championship, the first women’s major of 2024, as a genuine contender.

Teeing it up for the first time at second year host venue The Club at Carlton Woods, the 23-year-old already owns six major top-25s from nine starts, a record that forms part of Ruffels belief that she could join the list of Australian major winners.

“I feel like I've gained some confidence from the past three weeks and some good results out here and being one shot away from a play-off,” Ruffels, who was T3 at the Seri Pak Championship, said.

“I guess the thought kind of sunk in that ‘hey, if I was one shot better, then I'm in a play-off and I have a chance to win an LPGA tournament’.

“I feel like whenever you go to a tournament that the goal definitely is to try and win and your practice should kind of make you believe that you can.”

That belief has been enhanced by a start to her rookie season with a lone missed cut followed by four finishes inside the top-30, with Ruffels still learning the ropes of travelling to bigger cities and overseas week in, week out.

The Victorian noting the benefit of two parents who played professional tennis, father Ray and mother Anna-Maria Fernandez, to use as a sounding board and to develop a sharp mental game as she navigates the game’s biggest stage.

The efforts of last week’s Masters winner Scottie Scheffler also offered a window into the importance of the non-physical elements for Ruffels, who was the Epson Tour player of the year in 2023 with three wins.

“That's something that really stood out to me is how calm he is and he (Scheffler) never gets too kind of high or low whatever happened. It seems like he was just going to be the same person and the same demeanour out there,” she said Monday after watching The Masters conclusion and her first practice round at the Jack Nicklaus designed host venue.

Spending last week preparing for the year’s first major with Steph Kyriacou, who is one of eight other Australians in the field this week, Ruffels cites two of the other contingent as a further source of inspiration.

Joined by Grace Kim, Hira Naveed, Robyn Choi, Sarah Kemp and Karis Davidson teeing it up in Texas, it is the Aussie major winners who she hopes to emulate.

“I'm in great company and it's great to see the pathway that Hannah (Green) and Minjee (Lee) have kind of created for us younger girls,” Ruffels said.

“Australian women's golf is really going in a good direction, and that's because of Minjee and Hannah. If we can kind of follow in their footsteps, that's definitely our goal.”

That goal certainly doesn’t seem unrealistic for Ruffels, who has proven a quick learner at every turn so far in her golf career.

Only taking to the game seriously as a teenager after showing promise in tennis, Ruffels qualities as a quick learner were shown when she became the first Australian to win the US Women’s Amateur some four years later.

Her knack for early achievement shown again this year when ticking of her goal of a top-10 on the LPGA only three weeks into the year.

Propelled into the top-100 in the world rankings for the first time by that result, Ruffels believes her ball striking has played a significant role in her early success at the majors, while also enjoying the increase in pressure.

That high intensity environment coupled with her various sources of inspiration and contestant improvement having her well placed for her 10th major start this week, where a win would simply be “a dream come true” for Ruffels.

The Chevron Championship is live on Fox Sports, available on Foxtel and Kayo.

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