RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – It’s almost April, and the LPGA has only had three events (and just one in the U.S.), so you may be a bit surprised to find out that the women are in action this week, at a major no less.
Here’s what you may have missed prior to this week’s Kraft Nabisco Championship:
• Ai Miyazato won the season’s first two events, but isn’t the favorite here. Miyazato has just three subpar rounds in the past four Krafts, and has never finished better than a tie for 15th.
The Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club measures 6,702 yards and seems to favor players with the clubhead speed to spin their approach shots. The short-hitting Miyazato, who’s 94th in driving distance (235.4 yards per drive), will have trouble holding greens here with longer clubs in her hand for approach shots.
That’s not to say a short hitter can’t win here. Morgan Pressel won the ’07 Kraft. It’s just a tall task.
• Could this be Michelle Wie’s week to collect her first major? She’s placed better in each event she’s played this year, going T-22, T-15 and T-6. Wie would’ve tied for second last week if not for a two-stroke penalty for grounding her club in a hazard.
Wie tied for 67th at last year’s Kraft, but had a good record here previously. From 2003-06, she never finished worse than a tie for 14th. She was fourth as an amateur in ’04 and tied for third in ’06.
• There’s a new Korean star in the making – Hee Kyung Seo. The 23-year-old won last week’s Kia Classic by six shots. Seo, an 11-time winner on the Korean LPGA, was playing on a sponsor exemption. Seo is No. 17 in the Rolex Rankings.
• Defending Kraft champion Brittany Lincicome isn’t play particularly well. She tied for 26th in each of the year’s first two events, then missed the cut last week. That doesn’t mean ‘Bam’ should be counted out. She’s a slow starter.
Last year, she hadn’t finished better than 39th in an event before coming to the Kraft. Besides winning here last year, Lincicome tied for second in ’07 (she missed the cut in ’08).
• There has not been an American winner on the LPGA this season. Wie and Cristie Kerr probably represent the United States’ best chances at victory this week. Kerr is No. 2 on the money list after finishing T-4, 2nd and T-14 this year. She tied for second at last year’s Kraft.
Kristy McPherson, the other runner-up, has made all three cuts this year, but hasn’t cracked the top 30.
• Paula Creamer’s quest for her first major won’t end this week. She’s not in the field. Creamer withdrew after the first round of the season-opening event in Thailand, and has not played since, because of a thumb injury.