Nabisco begins under cloud cover
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- OK, so they've thrown out the first pitch at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the first major of the LPGA season is under way on a Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills shrouded in a cloudy chill, with a threat of rain in the forecast. The early glamour group is the twosome of defending champion Brittany Lincicome and Michelle Wie, fresh off her latest rules controversy last week at the Kia Classic. That dynamic duo both bash the ball a mile, something Michelle learned about Lincicome first hand when she played behind her all day a few years back in losing to Brittany in the HSBC Match Play. They play right behind Lorena Ochoa and Juli Inkster, who are behind fan favorites Christina Kim and Natalie Gulbis.
The rough should also benefit Jiyai Shin, the straight-hitter who missed out last year to Ochoa on being the first Korean to win LPGA Player of the Year by a single point. The other fascinating thing about this tournament -- which is sort of the Masters of the LPGA without the pimento cheese sandwiches -- is its tradition is inviting top amateurs to play. That's how Wie got to play here -- and finish T-9 -- as a 13 year old. There are seven amateurs in the field this year, including 15-year-old Alexis Thompson.
Play began Thursday with 113 players, down three after Helen Alfredsson, Maria Hjorth and Shanshan Feng were disqualified for missed their pro-am tee times earlier in the week. Also not in the field is Paula Creamer, who had surgery on her left thumb Tuesday and is out of action for an unspecified time.
-- *Ron Sirak