Davies dreams of the ultimate victory lap
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – If Laura Davies won the Kraft Nabisco Championship, could we look forward to a cannonball into Poppie’s Pond? What about a dive or a jump off the bridge?
No, her plan is much better.
“My dream is a five-shot lead down the last, and instead of going down (Dinah’s Walk of Champions), just walk straight through the ditch in the front and walk up onto the green, caddie with the bag over his head,” Davies said, smiling.
Could the year’s first major ask for a more exciting finish?
Sadly, even if Davies walked on water the sports world would hardly notice. That little press conference in Augusta on Monday will overshadow any outcome in the desert. Even, dare we say, a Michelle Wie victory.
Nevertheless, a chipper Davies likes her chances this week. The 46-year-old won the New Zealand Open earlier this month for her 73rd victory worldwide and tied for sixth in Thailand at the LPGA opener.
Davies counts the Kraft as her favorite stop. This marks her 24th time at Mission Hills, where the popular Englishwoman has four top-4 finishes.
Davies didn’t even notice officials had moved the grandstand on the 18th hole directly behind the green because she hadn’t played the course yet. The move allows long hitters to go for the green in two knowing a free drop from the grandstand awaits rather than a watery finish if the ball gets hot.
Mind you, the question was posed Wednesday afternoon. Davies was an alternate for today’s pro-am and played the Palmer Course on Tuesday. As for Monday?
“I don’t play on Mondays,” she said.
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To read Lorena Ochoa’s pre-tournament transcript, one would hardly know she has had one of her worst starts in recent memory. She’s still the No. 1 player in the world, yet not the heavy favorite. Ochoa had won an event going into the Kraft the last three years and had runner-up finishes the two previous. This season, she’s gone T-18/T-38/T-52 to start 2010, definitely not Ochoa-like performances.
The newlywed has blamed part of her poor play on distance control, saying it’s a combination of practicing in a different altitude in Mexico City (her new home), new grooves and her fitness routine. Whatever the case, she’s still spewing positivity, saying the Kraft is her favorite tournament of the year and that she’s “ready to go.”
At least 45 relatives are coming to cheer her on, along with friends from all over Mexico.
“They think this is like a soccer match,” she said.
This year, she especially needs their support.
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Ai Miyazato’s father, Masaru, watched his daughter’s back-to-back victories this spring at home in Japan. The teaching pro only travels to majors these days, but he did join Ai at her lengthy sessions with Vision54 in Phoenix over the winter break. He said the mental preparation has helped take the tension out of her body, allowing her to swing naturally and follow his mechanical advice.
Miyazato went through a painful slump prior to breaking through at the Evian Masters last year, and Masaru can see the confidence pouring through her eyes.
“In Japan we literally say ‘Eye Power,’ Masaru said. “A few years ago when she had the slump, her eyes kind of looked like a dead fish. Now, they look like a tiger.”
The Dinah Shore Course, however, might be difficult for Miyazato to attack. The layout calls for a fade in many instances and Miyazato plays a draw. Her best finish at the Kraft came in 2007 when she tied for 15th.
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Patty Sheehan’s absence at Wednesday’s pro-am led to a pair of DQ’s. Maria Hjorth and 1993 Kraft champion Helen Alfredsson weren’t around when officials came calling for replacements and now are done for the week.
How could a Hall of Famer like Sheehan just not show up? Apparently there was a miscommunication between the 1996 Kraft winner and tournament officials. Sheehan, who wasn’t in the tournament field, didn’t even know she was playing.