Sports Outside the Beltway

Kraft Nabisco Championship preview

The first golf major championship oyf 2009 begins today in Rancho Mirage California. Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa is the defending champion. She won last year’s tournament by five shots over Annika Sorenstam and Suzann Pettersen.

This year is the 38th edition of the tournament that was once know as the Dinah Shore. It became a major championship in 1982 and has been won by almost all the big names in LPGA over the last quarter century. Ron Sirak is right, the Kraft Nabisco has seen few fluke winners.

Who will win in 2009? I think the winner is likely to come from the following group who are in no particular order.

Lorena Ochoa- World’s #1 player and the defending champion. How can you leave her off any list?

Ji Yai Shin- Winner of four LPGA events in less than a year including the Women’s British Open. At present Shin is #1 on the money list for 2009.

Karrie Webb- Former Kraft Nabisco winner(2000 and 2006) and place in the top 10 eight times since 1995. She also won in Phoenix last weekend.

Suzann Pettersen- Runnerup at the last two Kraft Nabisco but hasn’t won since her breakout 2007 season.

Yani Tseng- #2 ranked player in the world and the winner of the 2008 LPGA Championship.

Se Ri Pak- Hall of Famer who came close to winning the Kraft Nabisco in 2007 before a disastrous back nine. This is the only major championship she hasn’t won.

Angela Stanford- She or Ji Yai Shin have played the best golf on the LPGA Tour dating back to last August.

Cristie Kerr-2007 US Open champ and perennial major championship contender. Kerr has won 11 times on tour and been 3rd twice at the Kraft Nabisco.

A few people who could surprise this weekend

Hee Won Han- 6-time winner on the LPGA Tour who has never come close to winning a major. With the exception of 2007 when she played while 6 months pregnant, Han has finished in the top 20 every year dating back to 2003. She was in 2nd place after three rounds last year before finishing T6.

Angela Park- Brazilian born American golfer(She’s a naturalized citizen and has two brothers serving in the US military. Can someone please hit the golf media over their heads repeatedly till they start classifying this golfer correctly) who was rookie of the year in 2007 and is having an excellent 2009. She stands 7th on the money list at present. Angela has contended in majors before(The 2007 and 2008 US Open) but has yet to win on tour.

Michelle Wie- I know she hasn’t won, and she has plenty of people who are willing to disparage her rightly or wrongly, but Michelle has an excellent record at Rancho Mirage. From 2003 to 2006 she finished 9th T4th, T14th, T3rd. She didn’t play at the Kraft Nabisco in either 2007 or 2008.

Other possibles- Na Yeon Choi(runnerup for 2008 Rookie of the Year), Katherine Hull(With apologies to Ms. Webb, I think Hulls is best female Australian golfer at present), Brittany Lang, Ai Miyazato, Eun Hi Ji, Stacy Prammanasudh, Jane Park, Jee Young Lee.

Anyone I’m forgetting? Paula Creamer. The Pink Panther has never finished better than 15th at Rancho Mirage. I just can’t pick her this week.

May the golfing begin.

The Constructivist and Hound Dog also have Kraft Nabisco previews.

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