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LPGAs Second Major Upon Us

Story lines are everywhere you want to look these days on the LPGA. Theres even a pretty good little soap opera developing as the best women golfers in the world make their final preparations for next weeks McDonalds LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola.
Its their second major of the year and it begins Thursday at Bulle Rock Golf Course where Se Ri Pak defeated Karrie Webb in a one-hole playoff last year. Bulle Rock is a par 72 and will play to 6,596 yards. The purse is two million dollars.
The initial story line in the years first major at Kraft Nabisco was supposed to be Annika Sorenstam. Would this be the No. 1 player in the worlds year to collect the womens calendar Grand Slam?
Sorenstam assured us early that week that she was confident and striking the ball well. Then she went out and struggled to a 75-76 start that barely got her to the weekend. Her putter, more than anything else, let her down in the final analysis.
Not long after that we found out Annika had been struggling for months with neck and back issues. Her return to action at the Ginn Tribute this week was her first action since Kraft Nabisco. She played cautiously but well. She will be a dark horse at Bulle Rock; but a dark horse with a terrific track record on golfs big stages.
A lot of has changed since Kraft Nabisco. Sorenstam has lost her No. 1 ranking. Morgan Pressel has emerged, having won at Mission Hills. And Michelle Wie has returned from wrist injuries. More on her in a few paragraphs.
New world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa will still be looking for her first major at the McDonald's LPGA. And she will arrive as the consensus favorite. In the years first major she looked ready to break through.
As late as Friday night at Kraft Nabisco Ochoa shared the lead. Then she went out Saturday and fired at a pin'the par 3 17th'when she should have known better. The result was a quadruple bogey 7 that included a whiff. Her chances died quickly.
For her part, Pak too, found herself in the hunt and looking for her sixth major heading into Sundays final round at Mission Hills. By the end of play Saturday Paks name had ascended to the top of the leaderboard and everybody had picked up on the fact that a triumph would complete the rare womens career Grand Slam.
Pak hung in for a while Sunday then started making bogeys in bunches. Five of the first eight holes on the back nine produced dropped shots. And quicker than you can say 18, Paks hopes were dashed.
Meanwhile the Wie saga added a freighting chapter at the Ginn Tribute where she withdrew after 16 holes of Thursdays first round. Wie was 14 over par at the time. Two more bogeys would have produced an 88. And it would have made her ineligible for LPGA events'the Tour has a rule that any non-member who shoots 88 or higher cant play in LPGA events for the rest of that year'for the remainder of 2007.
After huddling with one of her handlers, Greg Nared of the William Morris Agency, Wie withdrew, citing a sore wrist. I kind of tweaked it in the middle of the round a bit, she said.
Meanwhile all heck broke loose. Golfweek Magazines website reported that Alena Sharp, one of Wies Thursday playing competitors, said she never saw Wie holding her wrist in pain during the round.
I think she withdrew because of the high score, definitely, Golfweek quoted Sharp as saying. If it was a wrist problem, dont you think she (Wie) would have withdrawn after a few holes? Why wait?
In other words, Sharp was saying, Wie was trying to avoid an 88.
The LPGAs official position on the controversy was this from spokesperson Connie Wilson: She (Wie) withdrew due to injury and thats where that will end as far as the LPGA is concerned.
Golfweek also reported that there were issues between Wie and LPGA officials regarding an alleged impropriety committed by Wies father, B.J. Wie, during her round. Specifically Sharp and Janice Moodie, the other member of their threesome, thought B.J. Wie might have given Wie advice during the round. Thats a no-no. Others pointed out that Michelle hadnt asked for advice so it was all right for her father to advise her to re-tee at the 15th hole where she had hit an errant drive.
Afterward Wies caddie refused to talk to reporters about the allegation. But Golfweek quoted an LPGA official as saying Wie would be warned about getting too close to his daughter during rounds before the McDonalds LPGA.
Meanwhile, as of late Friday, Wie was still entered in the field at Bulle Rock where, last year, she trailed the lead by just one shot going into the final round.
Stay tuned for the further adventures of Michelle. Meanwhile look for even more storylines to develop as the LPGAs second major unfolds next week in Maryland.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - McDonalds LPGA Championship