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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My 5 for the KNC

The first major of the year is finally here -- the LPGA's Kraft Nabisco Championship, aka the Dinah, played at the scenic Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California. (Is that a cool intro or what?)

Mission Hill Country Club

As usual, I have picked 5 players who I think are favorites to win this week... and many of you will be shocked to find that I haven't chosen many of the top-ranked players. Before you ask, let me tell you why I haven't picked some of the obvious choices. I understand that any of them could turn it around with a good round, but I still have questions about them.
  • Despite winning 3 majors last season and knocking off 3 Top10 finishes to start 2014, Rolex #1 Inbee Park simply seems a bit off her game to me. She had her mental coach at the Kia to help her out, but I think she's still just recovering from the well-deserved time off she took after last year.
  • I'm concerned about the physical condition of Rolex #2 Suzann Pettersen. I think she worked too hard in the off-season. (UPDATE: Suzann has WDed, according to Tony Jesselli.)
  • Like Inbee, Rolex #3 Stacy Lewis has 5 Top10 finishes this season but I don't like what I'm seeing on the course. She seems a bit too... moody isn't the right word, but I think you get the picture. She seems to be more down on herself than I'd like to see. (Perhaps those two close calls where she lost so dramatically in December and January are to blame.)
  • And then there's Rolex #4 Lydia Ko. Again, not playing badly but she just seems distracted to me. Perhaps all the change in her life is taking a toll.
As I said, I'm sure these players can turn things around with a single good round. But I'm looking for form going in to the KNC and I just don't like what I've seen from the top players thus far.

I made 4 of these choices before the cut at the Kia. The final choice was made Sunday night in an effort to pick a "flier" who might catch lightning in a bottle. Here they are -- the first 4 are in no particular order:
  1. Jessica Korda: Jessica won the first event of the year and hasn't played in a month. But I like her attitude this year. She doesn't seem to get too down when she's had a disaster on the course... and she's had a few. (And remember, her win came after a bad shank in the middle of the third round.) She seems very confident to me, and a confident long hitter has a real advantage at Mission Hills. Plus, with her younger sister Nelly also playing, I think she'll be in an extra-good frame of mind.
  2. Karrie Webb: The Rolex #5 player is the highest-ranked player to play like it. With 2 wins and a third in the first 5 events of the year -- and 2 KNCs already on her résumé -- I have to believe she'll be a factor this year despite her poor play at the Kia.
  3. Cristie Kerr: Kerr's coming off 2 Top10s. While she's been a bit erratic, her putting is showing signs of life... and that, along with being reasonably long AND accurate off the tee makes her deadly in any major. Add the fact that she already has 2 majors of her own -- as well as a runner-up at KNC before -- and I like her chances.
  4. Anna Nordqvist: Yes, I picked Anna before her -10 weekend blitzkrieg. With 2 wins under her belt, her improved attitude has as much to do with this pick as anything. And with the 15 extra yards she's found off the tee, I have to agree with Judy Rankin: Anna Nordqvist will see Mission Hills in a very different light than she's ever seen it before... and that could result in her second major.
  5. Chella Choi: This is my flier. Chella has yet to win on tour, and the story of her father's desire to retire from his caddie duties -- and her desire to keep him on her bag till she wins -- has been told many times. But Chella is playing well and is #8 in scoring this season. This could very well be her week; she wouldn't be the first to get her maiden win at the KNC. (Remember Stacy Lewis and Sun Young Yoo?)
Those are my 5 for the KNC. Let's see if any of them make me look like a genius. GC's got some serious coverage going on Thursday, starting with the pregame at 11am ET, early coverage at noon-3pm ET and late coverage at 6pm-9pm ET.


  1. More flyers: Amy Yang, Lexi Thompson, Lizette Salas, Pornanong Phatlum, Michelle Wie. X-factors: Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, In-Kyung Kim have shown flashes brilliance this year, but they need to play consistently well as precision players on a course that favors length. More disappointing starters to 2014: Na Yeon Choi and So Yeon Ryu.


  2. Thompson, Salas, and Phatlum were the other 3 who made my possible flier list. Choi just seems due to me.

  3. My picks: