Sports Outside the Beltway

Kraft Nabisco Championship starts today

The first major championship of the 2008 golf season begins in Rancho Mirage California. 109 players will begin teeing it up this morning. One who won’t be playing, is Nicole Perrot. She missed her tee time in yesterday”s pro-am. This causing Perrot to be removed from the field. The defending champion is 19-year-old Morgan Pressel. She won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco by one shot over Suzann Pettersen, Brittany Lincicome and Catorina Matthew.

Pressel is one of this year’s favorites, but her play has been spotty at best in 2008. Lorena Ochoa, 2006 and 2007 player of the year, is on everyone’s list of pre-tournament favorites. Ochoa already has two wins in 2008, including last week’s Safeway International. You’ll get no argument from me, Lorena is the pre-tournament favorite.

After Ochoa and Pressel, the list of possible winners is lengthy. All of last year’s runnerups should be included- Matthew, Lincicome, and Pettersen. Former Kraft winners Karrie Webb, Juli Inkster, Pat Hurst and even Grace Park if healthy could win here again. Others to consider- Paula Creamer, Se Ri Pak who is looking to complete the grand slam with a win in Rancho Mirage, Cristie Kerr, Jeong Jang, Hee Won Han, Stacy Prammanasudh, Seon Hwa Lee, Jee Young Lee, Laura Davies, Laura Diaz, Angela Stanford, and Natalie Gulbis. I’d say there is at least 10 more players with a reasonable shot at winning on Sunday.

After Ochoa, my pick to win is 19-year-old Korean sensation Ji-Yai Shin. She has been dominating the KLPGA for over two years, and has begun to make noise here in America when she makes rare LPGA appearances. Ji Yai is in the top 10 players according to the Rolex rankings. Followers of golf around the world won’t be surprised if Shin comes out on top. Two good long shot picks- last year’s rookie of the year Angela Park and Momoko Ueda.

Blogger Daniel Wexler has a good run down of this week’s favorites.

The 2007 Kraft had one of the best finishes of the entire LPGA season. Mostly because of the train wrecks that took place. Pettersen, Pak, Matthew, Lincicome, and Prammanasudh all missing opportunities to either to tie for first or win the tournament out right before Morgan Pressel took home the trophy. I will be watching a great deal of golf this weekend and next. The Masters begins a week from today. How about you?

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