One mistake and everything can be lost' there is not much glory reserved for the person who almost makes it to the top of the mountain, or the player who finishes second in a golf tournament.
Its that determination and will that 144 of the worlds best women golfers will bring to the Safeway International Presented by Coca-Cola this week. All will showcase extreme talent and grit, but at the end of 72 holes, only one will reach her personal summit and leave the $1.2 million event with a weighty $180,000 first-place check.
The event, now in its 25th year, has been a staple on the LPGA Tour, but for 16 of the past 17 years it was staged at Moon Valley Country Club. This year marks the first occasion the immaculate and equally challenging Prospector Course at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club will host the Tour.
The field at the Safeway International Presented by Coca-Cola is always one of the strongest of the year. And again this year, all the big names are in town. Twenty-one-time LPGA champion Se Ri Pak, fresh off a season- opening top-10 finish at the Welchs/Frys Championship, is the defending champion. A win clinches future enshrinement into the prestigious LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame, as she would have earned the required 27 points needed for entry and would just have to wait until 2007 to satisfy the 10-year membership criteria.
It is not going to be easy for Pak though, as making her 2004 LPGA debut is the worlds most dominant player ' Annika Sorenstam. The 48-time winner skipped the first event of the year, but should show no signs of rust as just two weeks ago she stormed to victory at the ANZ Ladies Masters in Australia with a pair of weekend 65s.
Sorenstam, who has accomplished almost everything imaginable in golf, has clearly stated that her goal for 2004 is to sweep all four majors'with the first being next week at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
One of her playing partners during the final round of the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship is also in the field this week. The much-ballyhooed Michelle Wie will bring her booming 300-yard drives from Hawaii to the mainland to compete in her first of many LPGA events in 2004. The 14-year-old, who stands at 6 feet, has competed in 10 LPGA events'making the cut in six' over the last two years. Her best finish was a tie for ninth at the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Last years LPGA stop in Phoenix was an instant classic, as Pak erased a three-shot, final-round deficit with an 8-under-par 64 on Sunday. It was good enough to outlast Phoenix resident Grace Park by a single shot. Park needed to eagle the 72nd hole to force a playoff, but her approach shot stopped three feet in front of the hole and gave Pak her 19th career victory. Pak ended the event at 23-under-par, which was the second-lowest total in the history of the event.