Star-Studded Field at Bighorn


2004 Samsung World ChampionshipPALM DESERT, Calif. - Getting into this week's Samsung World Championship is like securing a table at a chic new restaurant. It's pretty difficult to do, but the rewards are well worth the effort, as 20 of the best golfers in the world will find out this week.
The $825,000 event is the most exclusive on Tour and the credentials of the 20 participants competing are much longer than any maitre d's VIP list. The 6,472-yard Canyons Course at the prestigious BIGHORN Golf Club plays host to the four-day, 72-hole stroke play event.
One thing is for certain, whoever wins this week will gain entry, or in some cases re-entry, into an even more exclusive club, as only 16 women have won the Samsung World Championship, which is now in its 24th year.
Sophie Gustafson is back as the defending champion after holding off Beth Daniel and Rachel Teske by two strokes last year, but her mettle is sure to be tested this week as the field list reads as a who's who in the women's game today.
LPGA Tour and World Golf Hall of Fame members Annika Sorenstam and Juli Inkster are sure to be in it to the very end. Sorenstam is a five-time winner in 2004 and three-time winner of the Samsung World Championship (1995-96 and 2002). She is unquestionably the best golfer in the world and ranks sixth on the official LPGA career wins list with 53, just two shy of fellow Hall of Famer Betsy Rawls for fifth place.
Inkster is still searching for her first win in 2004, but is always at her best when the lights are the brightest. Like Sorenstam, three of Inkster's 30 Tour wins have come at the Samsung World Championship (1997-98 and 2000), and seven of her wins have been courtesy of a major championship.
Meg Mallon and Se Ri Pak are the two other former winners of the Samsung World Championship teeing it up this week. Mallon was the 1991 champion and is enjoying one of the best seasons of her career. She has won three events this year, which includes the U.S. Women's Open conducted by the USGA, and crossed the $1 million mark in season earnings for the first time in her career.
Pak, the 1999 champion, won the Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill this year to reach the requisite 27 points required to gain entry in the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame, and will be fully eligible after completing the required 10 years on Tour.
Lorena Ochoa is third on the ADT Official Money List after earning her first and second career wins on Tour this year. One of most consistent players this year with 16 top-10 finishes, Ochoa is always lurking near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.
Grace Park, who along with Sorenstam, Mallon and Ochoa, has amassed more than $1 million in earnings this year, is looking to bookend her year with her second victory of the season. She triumphed at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March just a few miles down the road in Palm Springs, Calif., and could add another high note with a win this week.
Also in the field are 2004 tournament winners Cristie Kerr, Karen Stupples, Hee-Won Han, Jennifer Rosales, Karrie Webb, Christina Kim, Wendy Doolan and Catriona Matthew.
Rounding out the elite field are Mi Hyun Kim, Jeon Jang, the 2004 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Shi Hyun Ahn, Laura Davies and 14-year-old amateur sensation Michelle Wie.
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