Fred reports from the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
WOW!!! What a finish, and what a tournament!
The LPGA doesn’t always get the respect it deserves as the premier venue for women’s golf. So, CBS, who is broadcasting the final round today needed air time for the NCAA basketball finals consolation game. They decided that the ladies should tee off on both the front and back nines for the final round of a MAJOR golf tournament. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!.
While I understand that there is a LOT of money at stake, it irks me to see the ladies put in a “second place” position because of a CONSOLATION game in a basketball tournament. Oh well, enough complaining.
The final day of the tournament found me and Joni walking down the back nine because our friend Katie Futcher was in the first group off the back. We found where we wanted to sit today, on the 17th green, and then back tracked and found Katie, Alexis Thompson and Stacy P. Watch out for Alexis. She is in 9th grade and comfortably made the cut to play in this major. When she finally turns pro, she is going to light it up. We followed Katie and her fellow competitors through 16 and 17 and then parked ourselves to watch everyone come through.
I want to re-emphasize that this is one of the best ways to watch a tournament. Joni has never watched the KNC on the back nine, except in the bleachers at 18, so this was a real treat for her. 17 is a par three of 171 yards and without a doubt the nastiest par three on the course. It is a raised green with a huge swale in the middle. In addition there are two deep bunkers guarding the throat of the green. The pin was all the way back left, which meant that the real landing area was about 10’ by 20’, and many of the ladies played out to the right to take their chances on a good solid two putt and go on. I am sure that, had there been an official at the tee who said, “I’ll let you write down a three and go play 18”, everyone would have said, “GREAT”. The pin placement could not have been nastier or the green more firm and unforgiving. GREAT place to watch from.
As the players came through, we were treated to some great shots, as well as some really tough breaks. Almost no one read the putts correctly from outside 4 feet. As I said earlier, NASTY pin placement.
Laura Davies was the only one to drain a putt over about 6 feet, and this was every bit of 40’ over the swale and down to the hole. While Laura didn’t finish particularly well, she certainly gave all of us a thrill.
The deep bunker just in front of the green on the left side saw a lot of activity as players flirted with disaster in order to get close to the pin. Jiyai Shin (one of our favorites) hit the best bunker shot of the day from there, leaving a 2’ tap in for par. The bunker is so deep that she was hidden from view while in the bottom of it.
Another really fun incident (for us, not for Kristy) was when Kristy McPherson had her ball plug in the face of the bunker so deeply that she needed to consult an official prior to identifying her ball. She chose to declare the ball unplayable, and her caddy asked if they could rake the bunker prior to dropping the ball. The answer was “no”, and then she dropped in the bunker as she is required to do under the rules. Unfortunately she was unable to save her 4, but the exchange with the rules official was marvelous to watch. Kristy, in her typical fashion, took the whole thing in stride. She knows that while she plays this game for a living, there are bigger and more important things in her life. I love that about her.
As the tournament wound down, Yani Tseng and Suzann Petterson were dueling for the championship. You will recall that Suzann made a double bogey 5 on the 17th the year that Morgan Pressel won. Having birdied the 16th to pull within two strokes of Yani, Suzann came to the 17th and promptly flared her tee shot into the right rough. Yani put her tee ball right in the middle of the green, which is what she needed to do. Suzann was faced with a horrible lie in tall grass, and a ridge in the green between her and the hole. If you haven’t seen the green at 17 on the Dinah Shore Championship course, it is hard to envision just how difficult the shot was that she faced. Like a true champion, Suzann got it up and down to take the tournament to the 18th hole.
With everyone buzzing about the possibilities, with Suzann and Yani being two of the longest hitters on tour, we all packed up and walked to the 18th.
Yani laid up on her second shot into the par 5, which was the right play. With a two-stroke lead, she needed to simply say “OK , Suzann, come and get me.” Suzann is a fighter, and a true champion and striped a fairway wood into the 18th green in two, leaving herself a chip from the fringe. Her eagle chip stopped within inches of the hole, and she holed out for birdie. Yani needed only par to clinch her second major and her first Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Yani Tseng, from Taiwan, is one of our favorite players. When Joni and I were at the Pro-Am last year, Joni had a chance to chat with Yani, and she will tell you she is one of the sweetest, nicest ladies on tour, appreciative of her fans, and completely genuine. The Kraft Nabisco Championship could not have hoped for a better champion.
Hi everyone, and greetings from Saturday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship from Rancho Mirage, California. For me, being a long term fan of the LPGA, this tournament will always be “The Dinah”, as it is to a lot of the old diehards.
WOW, what a beautiful day, not too hot, with a slight breeze to keep it pleasant. As most of you who have followed my blogs know, Joni and I like to park ourselves at one hole and watch everyone come through. Our favorite hole at the Dinah Shore Championship Course is #6. This is the #1 handicap hole on the course, playing at 391 yards. For those of you not familiar with the hole, water is in play off the tee as well as on the second shot. The green is behind the north end of the lake, raised and sloping severely from back to front. There are multiple subtle bumps in this green which makes even a two-foot putt a real challenge. There is a little room to miss short of the green, and bunkers right and left guarding the entrance. Along with a lot of other fans (we didn’t invent sitting at one hole) this is a great hillside on which to sit, in the shade of several trees, and watch the entire field come through.
Many great moments were witnessed here. It is early enough in the round that some of the players are still looking for a bit of rhythm, but late enough in the front nine to get a sense of who is playing well that day.
Highlights where we sit always include learning about others who have come to watch. One of our fellow fans was a gentleman who served in the Merchant Marine in WWII. We thanked him for his service, and shared some fun moments and good stories in between groups. We also met a lady who was a close friend of Hollis Stacy for many years. Hollis, you will recall (if you are a true long time fan) was one of the great ladies of the LPGA tour for many years. She won three U.S. Women's Opens and a Du Maurier Classic when it was a major. Eighteen LPGA tour wins in all. Had a great time chatting with Maria about those wonderful days on the LPGA tour. Being a historian of the game, it was a lot of fun to learn some inside stuff about those days.
We were treated to some great shot making, as one would expect from the #1 handicap hole. The shot of the day belonged to Gwladys Nocera of France who hit her approach shot to the back edge of the green and drained a 45’ snake downhill for a birdie. Most of the ladies were sneaking up on the hole all day, but this putt had plenty of steam when it hit the hole.
Laura Davies, in true Brit style, having come up short of the green, putted up the steep front slope and made par. Sherri Steinhauer hit her second shot into the nasty, deep greenside rough above the hole and hit a great little flop shot down to the hole and saved her par. Catriona Matthew hit her second very close and made birdie. The ONLY person to make a birdie from left and below the hole all day was Grace Park. Everyone else who read the break correctly (about 18-20”) left the putt short. A lot of the ladies were leaving putts a bit short. Admittedly this was a tough hole location on a fast green. Perhaps the best example of this was Michele Redman who ran her par putt right along the high side of the hole and walked off telling her caddy, “I can’t believe it moved like that. It isn’t supposed to do that”. Lots of the ladies left a little more puzzled than pleased. But that is the nature of this golf course, and it IS a Major Championship.
I am sure I will leave some out, but kudos to Morgan Pressel for a great up and down.One of the lighter moments came when Katherine Hull was about to putt and a Canadian goose was strutting across the green. Her caddie, Vern (who caddied for our friend Katie Futcher last year), calmly stalked down the goose and intimidated him into leaving the scene.
Katie Futcher, our friend, and a sponsor of our Disabled Golfer’s Learning Foundation, came to #6, saw us and waved hello. As she left the green after saving a tricky par, she stopped and gave Joni and me a hug. This is one of the things that I love about the LPGA. The players are approachable.
After everyone came through #6 we walked back to the main pavilion around 18. As luck would have it, Katie was there with her caddie. We chatted for a few minutes, wished her well and left for the day.
Driving home, Joni had the leaderboard up on her IPhone. It looks like tomorrow is going to be a shootout. Should be fun.
Fairways and greens everyone,