The first LPGA major. the Kraft Nabisco Championship, starts this week and we won’t even have time to catch our collective breath before it’s time for a stroll down Magnolia Lane and The Masters. And we’re going to have to do both tourneys without Suzann Pettersen and Tiger Woods! There’s been much hand-wringing and speculation as the announcements from Pettersen and Woods have bounced around the ether, but I think we’ll be able to manage quite nicely. To be sure, it’s a shame neither will be physically fit to compete. These are huge events and fans and players alike look forward to them. But let’s not make the mistake of assuming that the Kraft Nabisco without Pettersen won’t be quite the same or that The Masters without Tiger will be a second rate event. Nothing could be farther from reality. The fields at both the Kraft Nabisco and the Masters are packed with players who have the demonstrated capacity to deliver highly competitive, exciting, and sometimes surprising golf. So let’s focus on who’s playing rather than on who’s not playing.
Kraft Nabisco Storylines
The teams for the LPGA International Crown are set, so we’ll need to look more closely at the competition within the field at the Kraft Nabisco. Is Inbee Park‘s game ready for a major event? I think it is. She’s played four LPGA events this year and finished in the top-10 four times. Her drive is solid and she’s averaging 28.9 putts per round. Can Stacy Lewis outplay her? That’s not likely. Lewis has finished in the top-10 in five of the six events she’s entered, but Lewis is averaging 30 putts per round. She’ll need to best Park on the putting surface and I don’t know that she can do that.
And what about Karrie Webb and Anna Nordqvist? They’ve both collected two victories already, they’re both playing hot, and they’d both love to put a major in their 2014 win column. Certainly they’re coming into the Kraft Nabisco with a psychological advantage. I want to watch them play against each other and I hope the pairings will give me that opportunity at some point during the tournament.
Then there’s the battle of the youngsters that will keep us busy. Charley Hull, the 2013 LET Rookie of the Year, now ranked number one on the LET and amateur Minjee Lee are both in the field, as are Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson. These teenagers form a natural cohort and this will be our first opportunity to see all of them competing in the same event. Thompson’s the most experienced. Ko’s the highest ranked. Hull plays a fearless, aggressive game, and Lee is a bright, shining star who’s just cresting the horizon. Comparing them is going to be irresistible.
The Masters Storylines
Steven Bowditch‘s win at the Valero Texas Open was a stunning personal as well as professional victory. Bowditch will be playing in his first Masters. How will his game hold up in that star-studded venue?
In addition to Bowditch, the Aussies will be very well represented at Augusta National and all of them merit watching. Adam Scott‘s been chasing the top of the rankings for a couple of years. He could get this if he has a top finish at Augusta. So could Jason Day.
What about Rory McIlroy, who’s generally been nearly equal to Scott (and Woods, before he was forced to withdraw) as favored to win at Augusta? This could be McIlroy’s chance to redeem himself on the fabled Augusta National links.
There’s no lack of star power teeing off at either Rancho Mirage or Augusta. Let’s give Suzann Pettersen and Tiger Woods the time they need to get healthy and enjoy the next two weekends!
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