Louise Friberg comes out of retirement to shoot 71 at Kraft
Thursday Afternoon, April 4
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Just before stepping to the first tee Thursday to begin opening-round play at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Sweden's Louise Friberg leaned close and spoke to her caddie.
"I told him I just hope I can get the ball to stay on the tee," she said. "I was super nervous."
Five hours later, Friberg was tapping in for par on the 18th hole, polishing off a 1-under par 71 which has her on the leader board.
"I'll take it," she beamed.
From 2008 through 2011, Friberg, 32, played the LPGA. The former University of Washington standout even won the 2008 MasterCard Classic, her one career victory.
But while life on tour was fun, it wasn't that much fun. So she retired.
"There were several things," Friberg said. "I had not been playing very well. And it was a grind. Then friends and family started asking, 'hey, can you give me golf lessons.' And it was like, wow, this is really fun. This is cool to give back."
Now, Friberg divides her time between Sweden, where she coaches in her country's national junior program, and Phoenix, where she teaches.
She's content and happy. End of story -- except for one thing. The five-year exemption into the major championship KNC earned with her 2008 victory expires after this season.
With a firm and persistent 11th-hour push from a friend, she decided to go for a last hurrah. Barely beating the deadline, she entered less than two weeks ago.
"My caddie talked me into it," she said. "He was like, 'What, you are exempt into the Kraft Nabisco and you are not playing?' I was like 'I don't know.' He said, 'No, you are playing and I'm caddying."
So Thursday afternoon Friberg, wondering if she was even going to be able to hold the club, stepped to the first tee and … birdied three of her first four holes. She finished with five birdies, two bogeys and a double and is three shots off the pace.
"I'm kind of surprised," she said. "And it was great fun. I had a bunch of friends from Phoenix that came out to follow me. They were a little bit loud and stuff. It was really cool. And I've enjoyed catching up with everybody, the staff and all the players and all the caddies."
Still, no matter what, Friberg says it will stop here.
"I do miss the competition," she said. "But now I've got a dog, a puppy, and I'm happy being home.
"And I have a commitment to coach the (Swedish) juniors. I have a bunch of five year olds waiting for me. It would take a complete change of my heart. I have learned you should never say never, but it's different to come out for one week and play good for one round."
That doesn't mean it wasn't fun. Super fun.
Thursday Morning, April 4
RANCHO MARAGE, Calif. -- Here she comes again.
Inbee Park, the 24-year-old South Korean in her seventh LPGA season, is as good a player as there is who remains so far below the radar.
But Park is working on changing that, taking another step with Thursday’s Kraft Nabisco Championship 2-under 70 that puts her among the early first-round leaders.
Park stands No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. She has four career wins, including two last season and one already this year at the Honda LPGA Thailand. She has a U.S. Women’s Open title and won last year’s LPGA money list. She’s one of the best putters in women’s golf.
The only thing her game lacks is fanfare.
“I just try my best every week,” she said. “I like to stay quiet. It’s good. I just enjoy what I’m doing.”
With the morning wave of first-day action complete, Park is among a group two shots back of Suzann Pettersen and Na Yeon Choi, both in with 68s. Anna Nordqvist posted 69.
Park built her day on the strength of three birdies and one bogey. Finishing on No. 9, she birdied the final hole with a 12-foot putt.
“It was not the best ball striking day, but I putted really good and got up-and-down from a lot of places,” Park said. “And I’m very happy with the score today.
“The course is playing a little tough with the hard greens. So I was just trying to hang in there.”
It was just what has come to be expected from golf’s Ms. Consistency.
“Oh, I have bad days,” she said with a chuckle. “ (laughs).
Just not many. And easy to explain.
“Same thing as today,” she said when asked about the next three days. “I’ll just try to hit the fairways and try to roll my putts on the greens and make a couple of birdies.”
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