Which American is best suited to be No 1

RSS

2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' Fifteen years have passed since an American has towered atop womens golf.
 
Its been that long since Beth Daniel won LPGA Player of the Year honors.
 
No American has laid claim to the honors since.
 
Whos best positioned to end the drought?
 
Michelle Wie at the SBS Open
Michelle Wie is hoping to one day become the No. 1-ranked woman in the world. (Getty Images)
Three years ago, with Michelle Wie lining up a putt to get into a playoff with Karrie Webb and Lorena Ochoa at the 72nd hole of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Wie looked as if eventually she would be best suited for the part despite the fact that she was just 16 years old.
 
After two trying seasons battling wrist injuries and the damage it did to her swing, Wie tees it up Thursday in the LPGAs first major championship of the year no longer the favorite to ascend to the top of the American ranks.
 
She goes off in the Kraft Nabisco looking to regain the positive momentum lost in two miserable seasons.
 
As a teenager, at about 14 years old, I dont think, male or female, anyone had ever seen a golfer with so much potential, so many possibilities, Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. Now, in one way, shes still a standout, because shes done some extraordinary things, but in another way, shes just one of the crowd. So, theres that pressure of breaking out again.
 
I dont think shes thinking about any of those things, though. I have to think shes just thinking about winning.
 
If Wie, 19, is going to break out on a big stage, Mission Hills Country Clubs Dinah Shore Tournament Course makes sense as that stage.
 
At 13, playing the Kraft Nabisco for the first time, Wie shot 66 in the third round and earned a spot in the final Sunday pairing.
 
At 14, she finished fourth here.
 
At 16, after missing out on that playoff, she tied for third.
 
I feel comfortable here, she said.
 
David Leadbetter, Wies swing coach, has Wie focusing on the rhythm of her swing this week.
 
While Wies obsession with taking on men has benefited her game, Leadbetter said theres been a downside to crossing over.
 
Leadbetter said playing long PGA Tour tracks, alongside long-hitting PGA Tour pros, Wie can get caught up going harder and harder at shots.
 
You can tie it into when all the problems started, as she started going at it harder and harder, Leadbetter said. Before she broke her wrist, she had some tendonitis problems. If you are going at it 120 percent, there are going to be some things that suffer.
 
Wies once beautiful rhythm goes awry when she swings too hard.
 
For the most part, shes in better positions than she was when she was 15 and 16, so shes really getting back there, Leadbetter said. But the rhythm is still a little bit of an issue, day in and day out. She gets going at it pretty hard. When she can find that consistent flow to her swing that she has when shes playing so well, I think she can get right back.
 
Rankin noticed Wies struggle to find her rhythm in those bad times.
 
As a young player, she had the most beautiful, flowing golf swing, Rankin said. It was longer, and more full. It had a perfect rhythm to it.
 
I thought the shortening and tightening up of her swing was something David was trying to do with her. It was my impression that changed her rhythm. Any time you change the length of a golf swing, its hard to maintain your natural rhythm. I thought the last couple years thats what was going on. I know right now, her swing doesnt seem as abbreviated as a year ago. Maybe it was a process, but what David says makes a lot of sense.
 
Leadbetter likes the improvement hes seeing.
 
When Michelle is in full flight, shes a great sight to behold, and shes going to be great for the LPGA, Leadbetter said.
 
In the battle to be the top American, Wie faces some strong challengers. Shes fallen to 81st in the Rolex Womens World Golf Rankings.
 
Paula Creamers the highest ranked American in the world at No. 4 and despite battling intestinal problems is highly motivated to claim her first major this week. An eight-time LPGA winner, shes just 22.
 
Angela Stanford is No. 6 in the world and the hottest American, winner of three of her last 10 starts. Shes 31.
 
Cristie Kerr is No. 7 in the world and an 11-time LPGA winner. Shes also 31 and appears to be warming to her best form with no worse than an 11th place finish in four of her five starts this season. Shes the last American to win a major.
 
Morgan Pressel, 20, has slipped to 29th in the world but is feeling good about her new swing changes, especially on a course that holds so many good memories for her. She won the Kraft Nabisco just two years ago.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Kraft Nabisco Championship