A week before the golf world turns its attention to the Masters, the LPGA Tour is teeing off its first major of the season this week with the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Defending champion Inbee Park looks to defend her title against a field loaded with previous winners, including Sun-Young Yoo, Stacy Lewis, Morgan Pressel and Yani Tseng.
Here are five things you need to know about the Kraft Nabisco Championship and its surrounding area:
Bear witness to the victory leap
The LPGA’s first of five majors on the season is also the site of one of the most celebratory moments in all of professional sports. Since 1988, the victory leap has been a staple at the tournament, which features the winner jumping in the pond surrounding the 18th hole. The act was started by three-time champion and Hall of Famer Amy Alcott and has since been called the “green jacket” of the LPGA. Park, the world’s top-ranked player, looks to become the first player to perform back-to-back jumps into Poppie’s Pond since Annika Sorenstam did so back in 2001 and 2002.
One of the toughest finishing holes in golf
As one of the nation’s most prestigious clubs, the Mission Hills Country Club has served as the home for the Kraft Nabisco Championship since 1972. The property features a 17-acre golf practice facility, including an all-grass driving range, a short-game area and four putting greens. Players will find the 18th and final hole as one of the more challenging on the course. It’s a 646-yard par 5 with a pond and several palm trees on the left that make landing a decent tee shot on the fairway tough. From there it’s a long approach to the island green sitting in front of the clubhouse.
Leading ladies Inbee Park and Karrie Webb
We mentioned that Park will be defending her title against a hefty field, and that includes two-time champion Karrie Webb. Park already boasts four straight top-10 finishes this year, including a tie for sixth last week at the Kia Classic. But Webb, who won at Mission Hills in 2000 and 2006, has tallied victories this season at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and the JTBC Founders Cup. Along with her ’00 and ’06 victories, Webb has put up some impressive stats in the Kraft Nabisco Championship in previous years, including 11 top-10 finishes.
Top players seeking a breakout performance
The field also includes some big names seeking their first major. Lydia Ko dominated the amateur ranks and collected two wins on the LPGA Tour before turning pro, but has yet to experience a breakthrough at a major. She finished tied for 25th here last year, but did finish second at last year’s final major, the Evian Championship. She currently sits fourth in the latest Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Lexi Thompson, currently the ninth-ranked player in the world, is another woman looking to make a run at the championship. She boasts three career victories on the LPGA circuit and has her sights set on that elusive major with a solid outing at Mission Hills.
Palm Springs: Golf Capital of the World
When you think of Palm Springs, you think fancy hotels, world-class dining and a festive nightlife. With more than 100 golf courses around the area, Palm Springs has earned the nickname of “Golf Capital of the World.” This desert resort city serves as one the country’s premier destinations for millions to escape the rigors of life and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Golf fanatics taking in all the festivities at Mission Hills can take a short 10-mile drive into a city that boasts more than 100 hotels, restaurants and dining spots.
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