Australian hopes high at Kraft Nabisco

The first of five major championships in female professional golf in 2014, the Kraft Nabisco, begins Thursday at its long time home at the Desmond Muirhead designed Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage near Palm Springs in California.

First played in 1972 as the Colgate-Dinah Shore Winner's Circle event and played under a number of different guises until becoming a major in 1983, Kraft joined forces with Nabisco in 2002 the name changed to Kraft Nabisco Championship then and since.

Most of the game's dominant players over the past twenty year's including Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Karrie Webb, Yani Tseng, Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park have won the title and the in- form Webb is the only two time winner in this week's field.

Park defeated her fellow countrywoman So Yeon Ryu by four shots last year and has generally played the event well, making all seven cuts although with her elevation in status in the game came her first victory last year. Nine consecutive top tens in golf worldwide suggest she is again the woman to beat.

Karrie Webb has been in fine form this year, a great run on the greens of late allowing her to lead the money list. Webb's last of seven major championship victories came in this event in 2006 when from just over 100 metres she holed a pitching wedge at the last to force a playoff against Lorena Ochoa which she won. Eight years on, Webb has not won another major championship but she is playing nearly as well once again and must be a genuine chance to make it number eight.

Suzann Pettersen has yet to win this event amongst her many titles but she has been three times second and once third. Pettersen has played well enough this season to be a factor again on a golf course where she certainly deserves to add to her two major championships to date.

Lewis has been her usual consistent self since her last win at the Women's British Open last August finishing runner-up on six occasions since then. Lewis has not only won this event she has also been 4th and 5th in other appearances so she would seem to be a chance to at least contend.

Lydia Ko is competing in her first major championship as a professional having finished 25th last year as an amateur. The now fourth ranked played in the female game, who will be 17 later this month, has taken to the professional ranks like a duck to water and there will be much interest to see whether she can add the first of what will no doubt be many major championships.

Anna Nordqvist is in rare form at present having won twice this season and trails only Webb on the money list. She has recorded three top tens in four starts in this event so she deserves serious consideration.

Lizette Salas has been one of the big improvers in the game over the last twelve months and was in a position to contend in this event last year before a final round crash. Salas was runner-up last week at the Kia Classic and might just be a longer shot hope this week.

Australians in the field other than Webb are Katherine Kirk, Lindsey Wright and two amateur invitees Minjee Lee and Su Hyun Oh. Lee is bordering on Ko's success in the latter years of her amateur career and might well become a genuine rival to Ko when she enters the professional ranks. The two time Australian Amateur Champion and former US Girls Champion deserves her place in the field.

Oh is a player good enough to have finished runner-up to Web at last year's RACV Volvik Ladies Masters and is yet another Australian star of the future.

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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