Major Season Upon Us

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RANCHO MIRAGE, Ca. -- Paula Creamers penultimate shot of the second round of the years first major hung on the edge of the hole and refused to drop. Creamer slapped the head of her putter three times in frustration, frowned and tapped in for a 74 that left her one shot over par and miles off the lead at the halfway point of the Kraft Nabisco.
 
Its major season in golf now. This week for the women. Next week for the men at Augusta National. And everything is magnified. So three slaps to a balky flatstick where one sufficed as recently as last week.
 
Tiger Woods and Lorena Ochoa have been the dominant stories against their respective competition so far this year. But starting now we begin measuring their achievements through the prism of pressures presented by major championships.
 
Creamer is 21 years old. And she will probably have to wait until June now for the next two womens majors'The McDonalds LPGA and the U.S. Womens Open--for a defining moment.
 
She already has won once in 2008 (the Fields Open in February in Hawaii). And she is early enough on in her career to consider it a compliment when people categorize her as the best player never to have won a major.
 
I think its nice that I have that ability in peoples eyes to win majors as much as they believe in me to do that, she says. So thats exciting. But its not winning.
 
Creamer arrived at Mission Hills Country Club this week with just one top 5 finish in 14 major championship tries. Those arent the kind of numbers the No. 4 player in the world is supposed to produce.
 
Then she went out Friday in 39 on her first nine holes. She will need to step on it on the weekend to get back into contention. Contention was where she found herself last year here until posting a discouraging Sunday 78 that left her tied for 15th and puzzled.
 
Everybody puts emphasis on majors because they are the best tournaments to win and they are on this pedestal of being the top tournament to win, she said earlier this week. I think that going into them, mentally, its not been the same as any other week, and I think my best golf playing is when Im relaxed and know the golf course.
 
While Creamer, along with a laundry list of players that included Ochoa, Suzann Pettersen, Catriona Matthew, Se Ri Pak and Brittany Lincicome were stuck in reverse at the wrong time one the weekend at Kraft Nabisco last year, Morgan Pressel, 18, was quietly minding her onions.
 
She carded a closing 69 long before the leaders self-destructed. And by the end of the day she found herself the winner of a war of attrition and the youngest female winner of a major championship in golf history.
 
Thursday and Friday Pressel played in a twosome with Ochoa. She hit five greens but shot 71 Thursday because her 22 putts was the lowest number in that category in the field.
 
Ochoa consistently launched her drives 50 and 60 yards past Pressel. And when a reporter asked Ochoa if she felt sorry for Pressel, Ochoa squirmed in embarrassment. Finally, after being pressed, she said, No.
 
What Ochoa should have said is: I will answer that question only after you ask Morgan if she feels sorry for me that I have never won this tournament.
 
But Ochoa has won a major'the 2007 Womens British at the Old Course at St. Andrews. So that monkey is off her back.
 
There is a growing sense that Ochoa is poised to start stringing womens majors in Woodsian fashion. In fact, if she wins this week, she will beat Woods to the punch on the Hot Topic circuit:
 
Will Lorena Ochoa win the womens Grand Slam this year?
 
Woods wont have a chance to get his first leg up on the mens calendar Slam until next weeks Masters.
 
Its major season in golf now. Everything starts to mean more and happen a little faster. Fasten your seat belts.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Kraft Nabisco Championship