Players Set for First Major of 2007 Season

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 27, 2007, 4:00 pm
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- The 2007 major championship season kicks off with the LPGA Tour's Kraft Nabisco Championship this week at Mission Hills Country Club in Southern California.
This event will be hard pressed to top the drama of 2006 where Karrie Webb fired a 7-under 65 in the final round to catch Lorena Ochoa and force a playoff. Easier said than done, of course.
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam is a three-time winner at the Kraft Nabisco. (WireImage)
That closing 65 was punctuated by a hole-out eagle on the 72nd hole. Ochoa, who had led since an opening-round 62, matched that eagle to shoot even-par 72 and force the extra session.
The playoff lasted just one hole, the par-5 18th, where Webb got up and down for birdie for the win. The title was Webb's second at this event and seventh major title overall.
With two of the tour's best battling it out in a playoff for the title, that would seem like enough, but it wasn't the whole story. Teen sensation Michelle Wie owned the lead on the back nine, but could only par the final two holes to end one back.
Joining her in a tie for third was Natalie Gulbis. Gulbis, who is still searching for her first tour win, closed with back-to-back rounds of 68 to end at minus-8.
Women's World No. 1 Annika Sorenstam has a stellar record at this event. Since 1996, she has finished outside the top-eight just twice. Sorenstam owns three wins and two second-place finishes.
Nineteen of the top 20 players in the world are in the field this week. The only one missing the event is Wie, who is still recovering from a wrist injury.
The Kraft Nabisco and next week's major, the Masters, are the only two majors that have been played on the same course since their inception.
After a one-week break, the LPGA Tour returns to action with the Ginn Open in Florida. Last year, Mi Hyun Kim held off Webb and Ochoa for the win.
As the ladies gather at Mission Hills Country Club, here's a rundown of the top names and their games:
Annika Sorenstam
Ms. 59 is now officially in a dog fight with Ochoa for world supremcy in ladies golf and it will be interesting to see how the Swede responds at the year's first major. Sorenstam cruised to an eight-stroke win two years ago and also collected back-to-back titles in '01 and '02. She will most certainly will be on the leaderboard come Sunday seeing as she has nine top-10s in 12 starts here.
Lorena Ochoa
Lorena Ochoa is primed for her first major title. (WireImage)
Lorena Ochoa
Ochoa has been simply sensational over the past year and a half with a half-dozen wins to her name, but the one glaring omission from her growing resume is a major championship. Coming off a win last week at the Safeway International should bode well for the Mexican star as she has performed well in this event with three top-10s to her credit, including last year's playoff loss to ...
Karrie Webb
Missing the cut last week wasn't quite the warm up Webb probably had envisioned, but she is the defending champion and has quite a history at Mission Hills. She won her second career major here back in 2000 and was a runner-up to Annika the following year. She has won twice already this year in her native Australia.
Paula Creamer
The Pink Panther recorded her third LPGA Tour victory at the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay and as the world's fourth-ranked player she will be among the favorites for her maiden major title. Her best finish so far in a major is a T-3 which came in her break-out rookie season in 2005. She currently leads the tour in driving accuracy and is fifth in scoring average.
Jeong Jang
Starting in 2002, Jang posted a top-10 in a major in each season until her first major triumph at the Women's British Open in 2005. She had a disappointing major season in '06, yet is currently eighth in the world rankings. Jang leads an always strong South Korean contingent and is coming off a tie for third last week.
Here's another foursome to look for on the leaderboard come Sunday:
Stacy Prammanasudh
Stacy P. is having a huge year thus far in 2007 with a win at the Fields Open in Hawaii, a third at the MasterCard Classic and another top-10 at the SBS Open. The 28-year-old from Oklahoma is tied with Ochoa in the player-of-the-year race.
Morgan Pressel
The fiesty Pressel has already established herself as a tough player in the majors. She famously finished second to Birdie Kim at the 2005 U.S. Open, and in this event last season posted a respectable tie for 13th.
Julieta Granada
The diminutive Granada shocked the golfing world last season with her $1 million paycheck at the season-ending ADT Championship. The money was nice, of course, but the confidence may ultimately be more beneficial.
Brittany Lang
A possible rising star, Lang has twice finished inside the top 10 in a major in her young career, including a T-8 here last season. She ranks in the top10 in driving distance and is coming off back-to-back top-20s in her last two starts.
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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”