Your quick guide to this week’s Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipMarch, 2012
What you never knew about the first Major of the year
1 Poppie’s Pond – The good, the bad and the ugly
AMY Alcott was the first to make a splash when she won in 1988 championship but it was not until the mid 90s that it became an annual tradition.
The lake beside the 18th is named after Terry Wilcox, the former tournament director, who is known to his grandchildren as ‘Poppie’.
Pat Hurst, winner in 1998, only made it in ankle deep as she can’t swim though better efforts have come from Karrie Webb, who famously cannonballed in five years ago as well as being joined by Celine Dion.
Then Lorena Ochoa made it a family affair in 2008 when over 30 members of her party joined her for a dip. Last year Stacy Lewis’s mum came a cropper when she fractured the fibula in her left leg.
One week before the tournament the pond is drained, cleaned, scrubbed, and essentially turned into a swimming pool, replacing the dirty liquid with fresh water.
2 The history
THE Kraft Nabisco is the second youngest Major – the Women’s British Open replaced the du Maurier Classic in 2001 – having been granted Major status in 1983 though the tournament began in 1972. The tournament hostess was Dinah Shore and the tournament is still sometimes called after the actress and singer though her name was removed from the tournament title in 2000.
The Kraft has been held at Mission Hills Country Club in California since its inception. It holds the distinction of being the second-oldest tournament continuously held at the same location after the Masters at Augusta National.
3 The prize money
THE winner this year will take away $300,000 from a total purse of $2m, a figure that hasn’t changed since 2007. This is actually the lowest purse of any of the Majors with the US Women’s Open (and the Evian) offering total prize money of $3.25m. Back in the day when Amy Alcott became the first Major winner of the Kraft she collected $55,000.
4 The winning score
IF the last few years are anything to go by the winner will need to reach double figures at least. Stacy Lewis and Yani Tseng, the last two champions, both closed on 13 under. The most impressive effort was Dottie Pepper’s 19-under winning total in 1999 which gave her the joint-best winning score in relation to par in any Major and a six-shot win. The following year Australia’s Karrie Webb romped to an emphatic 10-shot victory.
5 The course
MUCH of the talk usually revolves around the 18th though the fun usually starts well before this. Suzann Pettersen was four ahead with four to play in 2007 but a series of missed fairways and putts led to a finishing run of bogey-double bogey-bogey-par to finish. Eventual champion Morgan Pressel was hitting balls and watching the action on a big screen while the meltdown played out. At 6,738 yards it is long and tough.
The Europeans, in their first Major since the heroics of the Solheim Cup, will be looking to end a run of eight consecutive Majors without a win 6 That 18th hole
IT is a par 5 with an island green that can play between 485 and 531 yards. The most spectacular finish was by Webb in 2006 when she holed a wedge from 116 yards to force a play-off with Lorena Ochoa, which she then won. Three years later Brittany Lincicome’s hybrid from 210 yards finished a few feet away to set up a dramatic late eagle that edged out her playing partners Cristie Kerr and Kristy McPherson.
7 The Europeans
HELEN Alfredsson was the first player from overseas to break the non-American drought when she prevailed in 1993. Since then France’s Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Annika Sorenstam (3) have also triumphed but the last time this happened was in 2005. The Europeans, in their first Major since the heroics of the Solheim Cup, will be looking to end a run of eight consecutive Majors without a win.
8 The British
NO woman from these isles has made the leap into Poppie’s Pond before slipping into the champion’s white towel. Laura Davies led by one in 1994 but a closing bogey and birdie finish by Donna Andrews saw the American prosper. Catriona Matthew, like Davies with four top 10s, also came up a shot shy when Pressel was victorious. Two years ago Karen Stupples led by one but then slumped to a last-round 78.
9 The trophy
IT takes a brave player to lift the trophy before the final round but that is exactly what Yani Tseng did in last year’s championship. It was a spontaneous and playful act but, in the end, a silly one for the defending champion. A two-shot lead, the best player in the world and an opponent without a win meant little as, five hours later, Lewis was the one to lift the Dinah Shore Trophy for real.
10 The field
MUCH like the Masters the Kraft has a significantly smaller field than the other Majors. While they have around 150 players taking part, the season-opener only has around 110 which includes a healthy collection of amateurs. One is yet to lift the title but Michelle Wie threatened to break that run when finishing 9th, 4th and 14th from 2003 onwards before joining the paid ranks.