Annika Begins Grand Slam Quest

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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - With three tournaments in the books, it's time to get serious.
 
And it doesn't get any more serious than a major championship. This week, 98 players are looking to take the traditional and memorable leap from the 18th green into Champions Lake at the first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
 
For four days, the top professionals and amateurs in the world will battle for the $1.8 million purse on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
 
Grace Park took the victor's dive at the 18th last year after running in a six-foot birdie putt on the final hole to claim a one-shot win over Aree Song for her first major championship title. Song and Park were co-leaders after the third round and the duo dueled all day on Sunday. Trailing by one on the 18th, Song reached the par-5 final hole in two and made her 30-foot eagle putt to pull even with Park, setting up a dramatic finish in which Park rose to the occasion and sank the winning putt.
 
With one of the most elite fields of the year, every player had to earn an invitation to the Kraft Nabisco Championship and most certainly will have to work hard to earn the title.
 
Annika Sorenstam once again begins her quest for the coveted Grand Slam, or perhaps more appropriately named the Sorenslam, as she chases history in her bid to win all four major championships in one calendar year. Sorenstam has won at least one major every year since 2001 and was two shots away from a chance at the Sorenslam in 2003.
 
Sorenstam, who with a win this week can tie Nancy Lopez's record of five consecutive wins in tournaments played, claimed back-to-back Kraft Nabisco Championship titles in 2001 and 2002 and won the Weetabix Women's British Open in 2003 to finish off the LPGA Career Grand Slam. In 2001, Sorenstam became the only player in LPGA history to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship after winning the week before, a feat she could replicate should she win her third Kraft Nabisco Championship title after taking home the Safeway International Presented by Coca-Cola trophy last week.
 
With all of that on the line, however, Sorenstam remains dialed in on one
goal: winning the four major championships.
 
'All I want to do is win majors, and that's my focus this year,' said Sorenstam last week in Phoenix.
 
Sorenstam, Park and Song are three of the top players, but they aren't the only ones in contention for the title this week. Karrie Webb, winner of the 2000 Kraft Nabisco Championship, finished third a year ago, just two shots behind Park. Lorena Ochoa, who placed second to Sorenstam at last week's Safeway International Presented by Coca-Cola, traditionally plays well at Mission Hills.
 
Another player to watch is Japanese teenage sensation Ai Miyazato, making her debut in the United States courtesy of a sponsor exemption. Miyazato won five times on the Japan Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour last year to finish second on the season-ending money list.
 
Other players who received a sponsor's exemption this year include professionals Stephanie Arricau, Yuri Fudoh, Trish Johnson, Leta Lindley, Joo Mi Kim, Catrin Nilsmark and Bo Bae Song; and amateur standouts Julieta Granada, Brittany Laing, Jane Park, Morgan Pressel, Karen Sjodin and Michelle Wie, who finished fourth at last year's event.
 
And don't count out a player repeating Park's feat of winning her first major title at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Since becoming a major championship in 1983, 10 players have won their first major title at Mission Hills, including LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member Juli Inkster in 1984 and Betsy King in 1987.
 
Other players to win their first major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship include Alice Miller, Dottie Pepper, Donna Andrews, Nanci Bowen, Pat Hurst and the two most recent champions, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Park.
 
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