Upon the completion of Thursday's first round, Pak will officially be the first South Korean to enter the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame. With 23 career victories, the defending champion Pak has more than enough points to be eligible for the Halls of Fame. The 1998 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year only needs to complete 10 events in 2007 to fulfill the final requirement of 10 years of Tour membership.
In 1998, Pak became the first rookie since Liselotte Neumann (1988) to win a major as her first Tour victory after posting a wire-to-wire win. Pak's win at the event in 2002 made her the youngest player to win four majors at 24 years, 8 months and 11 days.
Also headlining the week's event is Rolex Rankings leaders and world number one Lorena Ochoa, who tops the 2007 LPGA Official Money List with $1,200,982 and is the only player to earn more than $1 million this year. Ochoa has two wins to her name this season and is the only player in 2007 to successfully defend a title after winning the Sybase Classic presented by ShopRite. Ochoa has yet to win a major despite tallying 11 victories since 2004.
On April 1, Morgan Pressel became the youngest player to win a major at 18 years, 10 months, 9 days, at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She is the only player on Tour with a chance at the season Grand Slam, in which a player wins all four LPGA Tour majors in the same season.
The winner of this week's McDonald's LPGA Championship will earn a spot in the season-ending ADT Championship that features a $1 million first-place check, as well as the 2007 Samsung World Championship and Mitchell Company LPGA Tournament of Champions.
Here are the favorites at the second major championship of the LPGA Tour season:
Se Ri Pak
We start with the defending champion. In nine career starts at the McDonalds LPGA, Pak has three wins, including last years career reviver at Bulle Rock. Pak missed the cut last week at the Ginn Tribute, but prior to that, she hadnt finished worse than tied 13th in her previous five starts. She will try and become the sixth player to successfully defend her title in this event.
Meanwhile, Webb will try and accomplish something that has happened four times prior at the McDonalds LPGA. Webb is trying to go from runner-up one year to winner the next. Webb won this tournament in 2001 and has a tie for 20th and a playoff loss in two starts at this site. Webb began 2007 by winning back-to-back weeks in Australia, but she is still in search of her first win of the season on the LPGA Tour.
Upsets are not the norm at this major championship. In fact, Chris Johnson, back in 1997, is the last winner who isnt a current Hall of Fame member (Pak will officially be eligible after this event). Ochoa isnt a surefire Hall of Famer, but shes headed in the right direction. She just needs to add a few majors to her resume. She would love to start this week. Ochoa, who lost in a playoff last week, has finished inside the top 10 each of the last three LPGA Championships.
Another player whose career could use a major boost is Kerr. Despite having eight wins over the last three full seasons, the 29-year-old has yet to be crowned a major champion. Kerr has nine top-5 showings in majors, including a tie for fifth at this event a year ago. She wilted a little bit under the back-nine pressure Sunday in South Carolina, but her third-place finish was her best of the season.
Hursts name doesnt usually come up when talking about major favorites, but she has a good track record in the big events. Hurst won the 1998 Kraft Nabisco and has seven other top-10s in majors. Hurst lost to Sorenstam in an 18-hole playoff at last years U.S. Womens Open and has cracked the top 10 each of her two appearances at Bulle Rock.
Four more to keep an eye on at Bulle Rock Golf Course:
It almost seems sinful to not include Sorenstam among the top 5 favorites. But given her layoff due to injury and her relatively poor showing last week in her own event, it would seem unlikely that she would be able to contend for four rounds. Still, she worth keeping an eye on this week as she has won this event from 2003-2005, the last of which occurred at Bulle Rock. She also tied for ninth last year.
Pressel technically is the only player with a chance to win the seasonal Grand Slam, having already won the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She has played this tournament only once, tying for 69th.
A win this week would put Davies into the Hall of Fame. She is a two-time LPGA Championship winner, doing so in 1994 and 96. She tied for third on this course in 2005.
It will be quite interesting to see how Wie fares this week. Anything, it would seem, is possible. Given her record in this event (T5 in 2006; T2 in 2005), it wouldn't come as a huge shocker if she contended for the title. Given her recent performance, it also wouldn't be too surprising if she didn't make it to the weekend -- or maybe even to Friday.
Information from LPGA Tour media was used in this story.