LPGA Opens the Door to 2007 Season

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2006 SBS OpenKAHUKU, Oahu, Hawaii ' For the third straight year, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) begins its official season in the beautiful state of Hawaii. Defending champion Joo Mi Kim is among 138 golfers who will compete from Feb. 15-17 on the Palmer Course at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay.
 
Kim became a Rolex First-Time Winner at this event last year, after outlasting Lorena Ochoa (after one hole) and Soo Young Moon with two birdies in a two-hole, sudden-death playoff. Kim joins a deep field that includes nine of the top-10 players from the 2006 season-ending LPGA Official Money List.
 
Leading that charge is Ochoa, who was the 2006 Rolex Player of the Year. The 25-year-old enters her fifth year on tour after coming off the strongest season of her career. Ochoa won six tournaments to claim her first Rolex Player of the Year title, the Vare Trophy and the ADT Official Money List title. With $2,592,872 in season earnings, Ochoa was the second player in LPGA Tour history to surpass the $2 million mark in season earnings. She added six runner-up finishes and ended last season with 20 top-10 finishes in 25 starts.
 
Ochoa is not the only player looking to continue where she left off. LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member Karrie Webb re-emerged as a top player on tour in 2006. The Australian's back-to-back victories at the Australian Women's Open (Feb. 1-4) and ANZ Ladies Masters (Feb. 8-11) proved she is back to her winning ways in 2007. Webb won five LPGA tournaments, including her unforgettable second win at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she holed a pitching wedge from 116 yards to eagle and force a playoff, which she later won. Webb also became the third player in LPGA history to earn more than $2 million in one season (joining Annika Sorenstam and Ochoa). Webb has accumulated more than $12 million career earnings and has 35 career LPGA Tour wins, which includes seven major championship victories.
 
Twenty-year-old Julieta Granada is also a player to beat this week. Granada not only became the first player in women's professional golf to win a $1 million first-place paycheck at the season-ending ADT Championship in November, she also is coming off a victory at the Women's World Cup of Golf. An unofficial event on the LPGA Tour schedule, she teamed with Celeste Troche to represent Paraguay and the team won by seven strokes over Team USA. Granada set an LPGA Tour record in 2006 for the most money earned by a rookie ($1,633,586), which broke Paula Creamer's 2005 mark of $1,531,780.
 
Other players who will challenge for the title this week include 2006 tournament winners Cristie Kerr, Mi Hyun Kim, Juli Inkster, Jeong Jang, Hee-Won Han, Seon Hwa Lee, Se Ri Pak, Brittany Lincicome, Sherri Steinhauer and Meena Lee.
 
Creamer is eager for her third-career victory while LPGA Tour stars Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lang and Ai Miyazato look for their first win on the LPGA Tour.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - SBS Open at Turtle Bay
  • Golf Channel Airtimes