Fred Brattain blogs from the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Sunday Morning at the Kraft Nabisco Championships dawned windy and cold. The overnight winds that played such havoc with everyone's game had not abated by morning, and the 50 degree temperatures combined with the North wind made it seem even colder.
This year, on the final day, half the field teed off on 1 (the leaders) and half teed off on 10. I don't know if this is a concession to trying to broadcast everything live instead of a tape delay, or whatever, but as a long time fan of the LPGA, I don't like it. The final day of a tournament should be played "worst to first" from the first tee.
That being said, we had a great time today. What a day of surprises, great rounds, interesting stories and incredible disappointments. Just your typical day at a Major.
Joni and I got there early in order to catch up with some friends and decide where we wanted to sit today. We hung around the practice green for a while, and chatted with Katie Futcher, our friend who is one of the American Stars on the tour. Katie was her usual cheerful, friendly self even though she was not having a particularly good tournament this time around. She finished solo third last year, having posted the best Sunday round on the day that Stacy Lewis was chasing down and defeating Yani Tseng for the title. This year wasn't quite so strong for Katie, but overall she is having a better year this year than last.
After we were done chatting with her, we hit up some of the display booths and picked up some munchies and other stuff. This is always a fun part of Sunday at the Kraft. The vendors really want to show off their wares and go out of their way to make sure you get a bag full of stuff. I didn't buy any souvenirs from this year's tournament, but Joni came home with a new coffee mug.
The 9th green and the 1st tee are adjacent to each other, so our strategy for today was to follow the first group off 1, hang around the first green until the same group came to 9 and then hang out at 9 and watch everyone come through.
The first hole is a not particularly challenging par 4, but a lot of the ladies were having trouble getting the ball to the back right pin which is the traditional Sunday placement. We were treated to several great shots, however. Vicki Hurst, whom you will recall hit a stunning shot at the KIA when we were watching her last week (see the KIA Fan blog for details), thrilled us again today with an approach out of the right rough to kick in distance for a birdie. Catriona Mathew, one of the most laid-back players you will ever see, hit a great approach and made birdie also. Cristie Kerr, one of the best putters on the planet, and head and shoulders the best putter on the LPGA dumped her approach into the greenside bunker, short siding herself. She was left with a shot from a deep bunker to a tight pin. To make things worse, it was also down wind. Her bunker shot rolled out about 20 feet past the flag, leaving a downhill double-breaking putt which she promptly drained for a 4.
Cristie gave us another magic moment on 9, draining another 20 footer for a birdie this time. As she walked past us I said, "Routine 4", which earned a grin, and Joni said, "Don't pretend you're surprised it went in." which made Cristie laugh. Like all great putters, I believe she is genuinely surprised when ANY putt she hits doesn't fall.
I don't know what was going on on the front nine for the players in the last several groups that teed off on 1, but by the time the last group of Yani Tseng (who was struggling), Karin Sjodin (who had taken the lead from Yani) and Haeji Kang (who has still hanging around in contention) reached the 9th green, they had been on the course for over 3 hours. They weren't behind, but the pace of play on the front nine for most of the groups was glacial.
Suzann Pettersen had her approach to 9 skip through the green into the skirting on the grandstands. After taking a drop, she proceeded (with a limited backswing) to chip up to about 3" and save her par.
After the leaders came through, the folks that had started on 10 came through and finished on 9. By then Joni and I had moved to the back nine, and watched, hurting all the way as Karin Sjodin had her hopes for a first tournament win on the LPGA slip away. What I love about her is that, as disappointed as she was, she never stopped smiling, albeit it a bit ruefully at times.
Yani, who is #1 in the world for a very good reason, had a chance to pull the tournament out but slipped her putt just past the edge of the hole on 18 to miss the playoff by one shot.
I.K. Kim was on the 18th green with a 12" putt for the win and missed. You could just see the disappointment and disbelief as the putt failed to drop. This put her in a playoff with Sun Young Yoo. It was obvious by Kim's body language that she was unable to recover from the disappointment of missing that tap-in, and Yoo beat her on the first playoff hole.
As fans, even though neither of these players was who we were rooting for to make the leap into Poppy's Pond, our hearts go out to I.K. Kim, knowing she must be devastated at the loss of this tournament which was not only within her grasp, but within 12" of being won. We are sure that she will bounce back and continue to be a strong competitor and star on the LPGA.
On a more cheerful note, Natalie Gulbis, who has been fighting a bad back for a couple of years seems to be playing pain free and starting to trust herself. She posted the best round of the day at 65, followed closely by Stacy Lewis, who defended her championship well with a final round 66. It's good to see both of them playing so well.
That's all from the KNC this year. Joni and I are probably stuck in Southern California for the remainder of the year, so this is our last fan blog for the season. Look for more of our musings and reportage when the LPGA returns to So Cal next spring.
Fairways and Greens, everyone,
Saturday, March 31, 2012
I have waited all year for this tournament to arrive, and Joni and I are finally here!!!!!
As a fan of the LPGA for several decades, trust me, there is no tournament that begins to compare with this event. Gabe Codding and the rest of the staff put on an event which is truly worthy of the word MAJOR. I drove all the way down from the Central Valley in order to be here for the weekend (350 miles). Joni met me at our hotel for the weekend last night, and after a good night's sleep we headed out early this morning.
For those of you who follow my blogs, you know that our favorite way to watch a tournament is to sit at one hole and watch everyone come through. As usual, we parked ourselves at 6 today and watched the entire field come through.
The green slopes radically to the left to the water, which must be carried in order to reach the green. 6 is the number one handicap hole on the course for good reason. It requires a drive that avoids the water three times, and then the second has to carry the water again, with bunkers short left and short right. The short right bunker saw a LOT of activity today with at least 10 people in the bunker as the pin was directly behind it about 1/3 of the way of the green.
If you go long, you are faced with a wildly breaking putt that becomes more and more speedy as you get close to the hole. The ideal spot is directly below the hole, but this requires that you sneak just over the bunker. Lots of the ladies tried it, and wound up in the bunker.
As we arrived before everyone was out, we sat for a while and chatted with the marshals, whom we have gotten to know over the last several years. The volunteers tend to be at the same holes year after year. We parked under the trees and waited for the first group of the day.
The first pair through were two of the amateurs who made the cut. One of the things that we love about the KNC is that the tournament makes a point of inviting promising and up and coming amateurs to play in the tournament. For instance, we met Amanda Blumenhurst when she was still a junior at Duke. The first group was Charley Hull of Great Britain, and Jaye Marie Green of Florida. Let me tell you, the LPGA is in good hands with ladies such as these two young girls. Hull made par from the front bunker, and Green made the first birdie of the day, and one of the few from above the hole. They went on to shoot 68 and 70 respectively.
There were several great shots and great putts throughout the day. Pat Hurst, who is looking GREAT, having lost 40 pounds, made the first birdie from above the hole, nailing a downhill snake which reminds me of Sam Snead's comment about hitting a putt with the shadow of the putter. Nasty downhill stuff.
There were multiple putts from far above and left of the hole. There is a slight ridge in the green which made it necessary to start a putt WAY up the hill from the hole. In Bee Park and Ai Miyazato were the only ones to solve that puzzle all day, with great cheers from the big group around the 6th hole.
As usual, we chatted with a lot of people whom we have seen at this spot through the years. Half the fun is chatting with the people between shots. We chatted with Amanda's Mom, and Jiyai Shin's step-mom among others.
Leta Lindley is retiring at the end of this year. She is Joni's favorite and we gave her a standing ovation when she arrived at the 6th hole. She cheerfully acknowledged our support.
We missed Juli Inkster who is currently nursing an injury. Juli is one of our favorites, and having missed her at the KIA classic, we were hoping to see her here, but she is having trouble with her elbow.
Our friend Katie Futcher came through 6 and, as usual, gave us a solid high five as she worked her way through the course.
In the afternoon, the wind came up, with gusts blasting away at the players, causing lots of backing off from shots, as the wind swirled around. We were having a lot of fun watching how the pros handled this change in the weather.
As the wind picked up things started to get more difficult for the players, and eventually Karin Sjodin wound up tied with Yani Tseng for the lead heading into the final day. One of the things we love about Karin is that she has smiled her way through the entire round. There is NOTHING more fun than seeing someone who is enjoying herself and remembering that this is, in reality, just a game.
We are heading out early in the morning, and are looking forward to a tight race to the jump in Poppy's pond.