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Kraft Nabisco Championship preview: Take the plunge
By Vince Robitaille
For most, the words “take the plunge” bring up images of, either, launching one’s self in a new hazardous endeavor, or of a British-sounding fictional anthropologist clamoring the refreshing virtues of one of Kraft’s biggest competitor’s products. Neverminding an ironic twist of fate in the world of advertisement and sponsorship, for LPGA fans, however, the expression takes on an entirely different meaning: that of a 23-year-old tradition of victory. As players have happily fled to Rancho Mirage after suffering from the ever lethal poa annua greens of the early American swing — Suzann Pettersen voiced her relief at the idea yesterday in her pre-tournament press conference — all seems set in the Coachella Valley, mere hours away from the first major of the season.
While all long for the opportunity to get their mits on the Dinah Shore Trophy – a soaked up polo shirt and a warm towel on their back – for one player, the primary focus is too delay the impending, and most probable, moment until 6 p.m. EST on Sunday. As a matter of fact, this week’s favorite by a landslide, 7 to 4 according to betting mogul BoDog to be precise, Yani Tseng still lingers over her pre-round trophy-lifting celebration that, not only in an expression that we do not philosophically subscribe to, yet seems common, jinxed the World no.1, but has also drawn mild criticism from editorial boards. Speaking of misfortunes, while the objective consequences of superstitions are nil, the subjective ones, i.e. the relationship of the individual with his own symbolic ritual, is undoubtedly probant. Although the April 3 letdown served as the totemic motivator that, from her own account, drove up her work ethics last year, the same fact might prove to be her hardest challenge to overcome this weekend. In fact, the confrontation of Tseng with that which represents her biggest “failure” — if there were such a thing in her case — has her, logically, concerned: “After that I won’t touch a trophy again,” she said. “I will never see it again. Even when I see it I would just pretend I’m not seeing anything.”
Will it destabilize her enough to keep her from going four-straight? That remains to be seen, but a definite ruffling of her feathers is foreseeable.
Attempting to keep the most dominant golfer, out here, from obtaining her 6th major victory on a 6,738-yard-long course with four par-5′s, a fact which gives an edge to long hitters, will be a slew of American players. Amongst those, however, look for the best ball strikers of the Midwest to shine as the desertic conditions of Mission Hill Country Club, hard and dry playing surfaces as well as gusty winds expected to reach 30 mph, will make them feel right at home. Ever lurking around, expect Forth Worth’s other golfer, Angela Stanford, as well as defending champion Stacy Lewis to be right there, breathing down Tseng’s neck, come Sunday afternoon. Both players have maintained themselves in the top 30 when it comes to scoring average over the past three months. Lewis had led the way with 71.15 strokes a round, and has obtained great results in the Coachella Valley. Stanford finished in a tie for 3rd last year and no lower than 15th since 2006. Both have gone head-to-head with the World No.1 and took her down; Stanford happening to be the last one to do so, in Singapore, a month ago. If anyone can make sure that Tseng keeps her promise of not handling the trophy, even stretching the deadline that she set herself past Sunday night to April 2013, these two seem like the most likely curators.