RANCHO MIRAGE (CNS) – The $2 million Kraft Nabisco Championship begins today at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, with I.K. Kim and Yani Tseng seeking to overcome embarrassments.
Kim had a one-foot par putt break to the right on the final hole of regulation in last year’s tournament, forcing a sudden-death playoff, which she lost to fellow South Korean Sun Young Yoo.
“I can’t really explain what had happened,” said Kim, who said she gets asked about the putt “all the time.”
“It was tough to handle at first, but I think it’s important not only to the viewers and the people, but to let other people, younger generation, to know that it’s not always going to be glorious and like victory.
“Life is not about winning or losing. When you’re 80 and look back, you’re not going to remember, ‘Oh I should have made that putt. When you’re 80, it’s more about how much you have fun and enjoy your life.”
Tseng, who is from Taiwan, will be playing for the first time since being withdrawn from the Kia Classic March 20 because she overslept and missed her pro-am tee time.
“So many people have given me alarm clocks,” said Tseng, whose 109- week reign atop the Rolex Women’s Golf Rankings ended March 18 after American Stacy Lewis won her second consecutive tournament.
The final spot in the field of 111 for the LPGA’s first major of the year went to 14-year-old Angel Yin of Arcadia, who won the Kraft Nabisco Legends Junior Challenge by firing a five-under-par 67 Tuesday on the Arnold Palmer Course at Mission Hills Country Club.
“Angel was beyond impressive out there,” said World Golf Hall of Fame Member Donna Caponi, who coached Yin in the event, where top Southern California junior female golfers are paired with LPGA legends.
Yin said her goals for the tournament are to “have fun and experience what it’s like for LPGA players.”
The field also includes 15-year-old Lydia Ko of New Zealand, the world’s top-ranked woman amateur golfer, who has won three professional tournaments. She became the youngest winner of an LPGA event in August when she won the CN Canadian Open. ”I don’t think she realizes how good she is,” Lewis said. “I expect her to come out and play really good.”
Ko will be paired in the first two rounds with one-time prodigy Michelle Wie.
“If it was my first time, I would have been really nervous, but I will definitely be nervous as she is my idol,” Ko said. “Luckily, I’ve experienced playing with her and Yani at the Australian Open.”
In 2003, Wie became the youngest player to make a cut in an LPGA tournament and major, when she tied for ninth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Now 23, Wie has struggled recently, missing the cut in three of her five tournaments this year, and finishing 45th and tying for 45th in the others. She is ranked 86th, 61 spots behind Ko.
The tournament is set to conclude Sunday with the winner receiving $300,000.
One change fans will notice is The KNC Fan Experience, a 22,000-square foot area which includes golf simulators, hitting bays, a 60-foot putting contest and food outlets.
Tickets are $35, with children 17 and under admitted free when accompanied by a ticketed adult. Admission is free for active members of the military, with identification, their spouses and children.
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