Players Set for First Major of 2007 Season


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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