Sports Outside the Beltway

Kraft Nabisco Championship starts today

That’s my longshot pick for this weekend’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, Grace Park. Grace wouldn’t normally be considered a longshot. She is the 2004 KN Champ plus a former winner of the Vare trophy. When healthy, I doubt there are more than four better players on tour than Grace Park.

However Grace has been injured for much of the last two years. She had her worst season ever in 2006. Kind of reminds of what happened to Se Ri Pak in 2004 and 2005. We all know what happened to the Korean Golf Queen in 2006.

On the plus side for Grace, she had a top 20 last week at the Safeway tournament in Arizona. That included a third round 65. That’s the type of play that could make Grace a winner this weekend.

Other longshot or not obvious picks are(and South Korean golfers) are Shi Hyun Ahn, Jee Young Lee and Seon Hwa Lee. Any of these ladies could be jumping into the pond after Sunday’s final round.

Oh and for the latest stupidity in the Golf MSM, we have who else John Antonini from Golf World magazine who writes of Hee Won Han-

The Kraft Nabisco is the only major a Korean player hasn’t won, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be represented on the leaderboard.

Grace Park is definitely South Korean.

She has lived in the US since age 11, but considers herself Korean. John Antonini is just one more clueless idiot in the golf media.

Doug Ferguson writes about the obvious(or some would say realistic) pick this weekend. No doubt about it, Lorena Ochoa is playing sensational golf and has to be considered the favorite. I’ll stand by my New Year’s pick, Se Ri Pak.

Reminder- Michelle Wie is not playing this week.

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Lorena Ochoa finds inspiration just about everywhere she turns in the California desert.

She never came closer to winning a major than one year ago in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. The Mexican star tied an LPGA major record with a 62 in the opening round, only to carelessly throw away shots over the weekend. And despite a birdie-par-eagle finish to force a playoff, she left Mission Hills empty after losing to Karrie Webb in a playoff.

“I didn’t like the feeling of losing, kind of giving the tournament away after a great first round,” she said. advertisement

But the Coachella Valley is filled with positive vibes, too, for it was only five months ago at Bighorn that Ochoa produced perhaps her most significant victory to date.

She trailed Annika Sorenstam by 3 shots going into the final round of the Samsung World Championship on a course where Sorenstam had never lost and was going after a record sixth victory. Despite such daunting odds, the fearless Ochoa fired at flags and closed with a 7-under 65 to win by 2.

It sent Ochoa on her way to winning LPGA Player of the Year and the money title, which had belonged to Sorenstam the past five years. And it allowed her to truly believe that being No. 1 in the world was only a matter of time.

Perhaps the time is now.

Ochoa can move to No. 1 in the women’s world ranking and fill the only hole in her credentials with a victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, which starts today at Mission Hills.

There is little to suggest she is not the favorite.

She is coming off a six-victory season that allowed her to sweep all the major awards. And she is coming off a victory last week against a strong field at Superstition Mountain in Gold Canyon, where she birdied four of the last five holes.

“I would say Lorena is playing very, very well,” Sorenstam said. ” . . . So far, and right now, she’s playing some superb golf. So I’m not surprised that the gap is smaller and smaller.”

The Kraft Nabisco is played on the same course every year, and the 101 players make it the smallest field among LPGA majors.

In her fifth year on tour, about the only thing Ochoa, 25, has not achieved is winning a major.

Her first decent chance came two years at Cherry Hills, a grueling test for the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open. Ochoa was among the early starters and was poised to post a score of 3 over – the winning score that day – until she hooked her tee shot on the 18th into the water and stumbled to a quadruple bogey.

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