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Stats and Stuff: Kraft Nabisco Championship

Fans gather on the 18th fairway
Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Fans crowd onto the 18th fairway to watch the final pairing finish during the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

March 28 2012, Ward Clayton

Yani Tseng’s fast start

Through the first five events of the 2012 season, Yani Tseng has won three times and finished in the top eight in her other two starts. That is the best start to a season in her five-year LPGA career and ranks among the best over five events in the 62-year history of the LPGA. Entering 2012, Tseng had won only twice in her first five events of each season since 2008, her rookie campaign.

Kathy Whitworth won four of the first five tournaments of the 1969 season for the best five-tournament start in LPGA history. She won the second, third, fourth and fifth events to start the year, winning by one shot at St. Petersburg, Fla., by one at Port Charlotte, Fla., by four at Port Malabar, Fla., and in a playoff at Palmetto, Ga.

Here’s a look at those who won at least three of the first five tournaments to begin a season:

Year  Player Tournaments (Order during season)
1950 Babe Zaharias Titleholders (2), Pebble Beach (3), Cleveland (5)
1951 Babe Zaharias Ponte Vedra Beach (1), Tampa (2), Lakewood (5)
1961 Louise Suggs Sea Island (1), Naples (2), Palm Beach (4)
1969 Kathy Whitworth St. Petersburg (2), Port Charlotte (3), Port Malabar (4), Palmetto, Ga. (5)
2005 Annika Sorenstam Mexico (2), Phoenix (3), Dinah Shore (4)
2012 Yani Tseng Honda Thailand (2), RR Donnelley Founders Cup (4), Kia Classic (5)

        

Youth record belongs to Lopez

Yani Tseng is the second-youngest LPGA player to reach 15 career victories at the age of 23 years, 2 months, 2 days. The only player to reach the mark faster than Tseng was Nancy Lopez, who was 22 years, 5 months and 18 days when she won for 15th time in her career at the 1979 Lady Keystone Open on June 24, 1979.

A comparison for wins by age:

Age Lopez wins Tseng wins
19 0 1
20 0 1
21 9 3
22 8 7
23 3 3

 

Tseng expands Rolex Rankings lead

Yani Tseng’s lead in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings grew to 9.26 points in this week’s rankings. Her point differential over second-place Na Yeon Choi (18.30-9.04) is more than double.  In the six-year history of the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, the largest differential between first and second occurred on April 21, 2008 when Lorena Ochoa held a 9.87-point lead over second-place Annika Sorenstam. Tseng took over the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings on Feb. 14, 2011 and has been in that spot ever since (59 consecutive weeks).

This week’s Rolex Rankings’ top 10 displays the diversity of the LPGA with players from Taiwan (Tseng), Japan (Ai Miyazato),  the United States (3, Cristie Kerr, defending Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer), China (Shanshan Feng), Norway (Suzann Pettersen) and South Korea (3, Na Yeon Choi, Sun Ju Ahn and Jiyai Shin).

 

Mission Hills’ long history

Mission Hills Country Club has been the site of the Kraft Nabisco Championship since the tournament’s inception in 1972, joining Augusta National Golf Club (Masters Tournament) as the only American professional tournaments played at only one site.

Mission Hills’ Dinah Shore Tournament Course was designed in 1970 by Desmond Muirhead, who died in 2002 and designed courses with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gene Sarazen and Nick Faldo.

The par-5 18th hole has become the most famous hole on the LPGA because the LPGA field staff can adjust to two different tee locations to either make it a three-shot hole (approximately 530 yards) or a risk-reward opportunity (approximately 485 yards), with players trying to avoid Poppie’s Pond onto an island green located near the clubhouse.

 

Win week before majors

Since the Kraft Nabisco Championship began in 1972 (it was designated as a major in 1983), only two players have won the week before the first major championship of the season. They include Annika Sorenstam (2001 and 2005) and Lorena Ochoa (2008). Sorenstam and Ochoa won the previous two tournaments before traveling to Rancho Mirage, Calif. Yani Tseng has won the last two tournaments before this week’s event.

 

Shin’s comeback from 2011

Jiyai Shin hasn’t won since the 2010 Mizuno Classic, a span of 16 months since the last of her eight career LPGA victories. However, at age 23, the South Korean has recovered nicely from a 2011 season where she suffered a back injury late in the year that forced her to the sidelines for six weeks. Since returning in mid-October 2011, Shin has made nine starts with five top-10s and two third-place finishes.

 

Feng’s under-par play

China’s Shanshan Feng continues to have an impressive 2012 season. The 22-year-old has finished in the top five of each of her three LPGA starts this season and has recorded under-par scores in 11 of 12 rounds, breaking the under-par streak with an even-par 72 to start last week’s Kia Classic. Still, she leads the Rounds Under Par statistical category at 91.7 percent. She became the first winner from China on the Ladies European Tour earlier this year at the World Ladies Championship on Hainan Island in southern China.

 

Skee Ball with Lexi

Next Monday, as a part of a promotion with her sponsor, Red Bull, Lexi Thompson is scheduled to compete with Rickie Fowler in hitting shots off a platform in the middle of a lake in Augusta, Ga. A platform will be built where Thompson and Fowler will attempt to play a golf version of skee ball from 125 yards to an oversized target set up on a lakeside hill on the bank of Lake Olmstead. The lake is located a mile from the Augusta National Golf Club, the site of the Masters Tournament. The player with the highest aggregate score over 12 shots each will win the event and earn $5,000 for a select charity.

Topics: Stats and Stuff, ANA Inspiration, Tseng, Yani

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