With Dinah Shore presiding over a beautiful Southern California golf day, Danish rookie Line Vedel, playing from the first tee, and South Korean Ji Young Oh and American Cindy LaCrosse, playing from the tenth tee, led off the first round at the Kraft Nabisco Championship this morning at 7:10am. Although none of them played a memorable game today they provided the start to a high-energy opening round for the 43rd playing LPGA Tour’s first major of the 2014 season. Poppy’s Pond is waiting to receive the 2014 winner Sunday afternoon! Rolex Ranked number 7, China’s Shanshan Feng, carded 66 and got a bit of a head start on the race to the pond and a second major championship. Feng will go into the second round with a slim one-stroke lead but there’s much golf to be played at Mission Hills and the field chasing Feng is peppered with hot golfers.
Who’s Chasing Feng?
Si Re Pak and Michelle Wie both carded first round scores of 67 and, like Feng, played superb golf today. Thirty-six year old Pak thrilled a nation and inspired a generation of South Korean girls to take up the game of golf when as a 20-year old rookie she won the US Women’s Open in 1998. Twenty-four year old Wie, winless since her 2010 victory at the CN Canadian Women’s Open, played with confidence, fluidity and authority and looked like a champion today.
South Korean Amy Yang and American amateur Angel Yin also had good opening rounds. Both carded 68 and will start tomorrow trailing Feng’s lead by two shots.
Eight players are crowded into the top-10 slots on leaderboard below Yang and Yin but within five strokes of Feng’s lead, including Cristie Kerr, who carded 69, and Chella Choi, Morgan Pressel and So Yeon Ryu, who all shot 70 today.
Players To Watch
Defending champion Inbee Park, struggling to find the cup, carded 74. If Park can get her putter under control she’ll be back in the mix, but Park used an astonishing 32 putts to make her way around the course today. Feng used only 26, and those six extra shots put Park 8 strokes off the lead going into the second round.
Spain’s Azahara Munoz and American Paula Creamer, who have both been playing very hot golf, both ended the round at even par. Creamer went to the practice range after her round and worked on her draw. She’s playing with grit and determination. Her win over Munoz in their playoff at the HSBC Women’s Champions last month seems to have fired up Creamer’s mental game. Coincidentally, if Creamer makes the cut at the Kraft Nabisco, and there’s every reason to believe that she will, she’ll tie Tiger Woods for consecutive cuts made at major championships!
America’s top-ranked golfer, Stacy Lewis, shot 73. She didn’t get the round she wanted today. Her drives were wild — she hit only four fairways — and like Park, Lewis struggled with her putter, also needing 32 putts to complete the round. Perhaps Lewis can dial in her game tomorrow.
The trio of teenaged pros, American Lexi Thompson, New Zealander Lydia Ko, and Englishwoman Charlie Hull all played even with Stacy Lewis today and will start the second round at +1, trailing Shanshan Feng by seven strokes. Thompson and Hull struggled with the putting surface and Ko didn’t have her usual pin-point precision off the tee and on the fairway.
Australian amateur Minjee Lee, whose goal is to finish the Kraft Nabisco in the top-10, will start the second round trailing Feng by 11 strokes and well down the leaderboard. Lee needs to settle down and pull out the game she used to win the ALPG-sanctioned Oates Victorian Open in February.
2nd Round TV Coverage
Golf Channel will provide coverage for the 2nd round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship from 11:30am-3pm and 6-9pm, all times ET, and I’ll provide a wrap-up of the round as well tomorrow evening.