by Jeff Skinner
The women of The LPGA Tour are set to take center stage this week as they open the major season at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. The LPGA season seems a bit dysfunctional at this point in the year. This is only the fourth tournament of the season and they have played only one full field event prior to this week’s championship and only one on US soil. Compare that to The PGA Tour which will have played thirteen tournaments before they play The Masters. This sparse, start and stop season hardly gives the players a chance to get their game in championship shape. One of the players that doesn’t mind the abbreviated start must be Ai Miyazato as she has claimed two of the three titles.
It may be difficult for Miyazato to claim another win this week. The short hitting Miyazato will be facing one of the longer courses on tour this season at 6702 yards. If a long hitter is to take home the trophy you don’t have to look to far past the headlines of women’s golf. Michelle Wie currently is in second place in driving distance at 269 yards. She is off to a very good start. She has gone from a T22, T15 to a T6 last week which could have been a T2 if the rules officials had viewed her slip in the hazard a bit differently.
Wie has always been able to hit the ball a long way, she was fourth in driving distance last year but the difference this year is her putter. She finished tied for 37th in putting last season and this year has improved enough with the short stick to be tied for 5th in putting average with 27 putts per round on the tour. With her driving and putting working well together, she is tied for tenth in scoring average, she could be primed to win her first major and give the LPGA a much needed boost.
Last year’s champion, Brittany Lincicome is teamed with Wie for the first two rounds and that looks to be a long ball hitters dream. Lincicome is nicknamed “Boom Boom” for her length off the tee but her driving has been an issue this year. She is averaging twenty five yards less than last season. That has given her a rough start with two T26’s and a missed cut.
Cristie Kerr is one of America’s best bets to contend at The Kraft. She has started well with a T4, 2nd and T14 last week. She is T3 in scoring average and second on the money list. Kerr will be trying her best to add another major to her resume along with the 2007 US Open.
Suzann Petersen is healthy again and was off to a great start with two top tens to start the season but a T52 last week may have derailed her. Pettersen plays well here with second place finishes two of the last three years. He driver is fine, with 262 yards off the tee, so she has the length but her putting has been dismal. You can’t win a major when you average 31 putts per round. She’ll need to putt better if she is to contend.
The Koreans once again put forth an impressive contingent at The Kraft. Hee Kyung Seo won last week on a sponsor’s exemption and knows how to win. She has eleven wins on the Korean LPGA and could claim her first major. Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Jiyai Shin is rounding into form with a pair of T3’s in the past two outings but her lack of length off the tee (233 yds) will make this course a real challenge.
Yani Tseng, from Taipei, is 6th in the World Rankings and off to a good start with two top tens and is tenth is scoring average. She has the game to compete here.
Easily over looked is the number one player in the world, Lorena Ochoa. Although she is off to a slow start, Ochoa can win anywhere in the world. Her game is far from where it should be with a T39 in scoring average and her best finish a T18 at The Honda. That being said; how can you discount the best player in the world? You can’t. Ochoa has the skills to win her third major and second Kraft Nabisco Championship this week.
It should be an interesting week for the ladies and a good chance to really move The LPGA Tour season into high gear.