AP FILE / FEBRUARY 2005
Jennifer Rosales hopes for a better year after a nagging wrist injury last season resulted in only two more top- 10 finishes after she beat Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie by two shots to win the inaugural SBS Open in Hawaii.
Still the ‘J-Ro’ show
Jennifer Rosales is one of the best reasons to tune in to this week's LPGA event
The $1 million SBS Open is two cards shy of a full deck as the LPGA Tour begins its year today at the Turtle Bay Resort.
Nine of the top 10 money winners from 2005 are here, including Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Lorena Ochoa and defending Women's British Open champ Jeong Jang. Add a deep rookie roster -- that boasts Ai Miyazato and Morgan Pressel among its ranks -- to the field of 132 golfers, and you get the idea the LPGA is doing just fine, thank you.
But as strong a hand that's been dealt for this week's local golf fans, Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie missing from the scene takes a little luster off the opening 54 holes of 2006. Sorenstam is skipping the island portion of the tour for a second consecutive season, while Wie sits this one out so she can play at next week's innaugural Fields Open at Ko Olina Resort.
That doesn't seem to bother LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn F. Bivens. She believes the tour has enough big names to go around.
"One of the great stories out of this is that the LPGA, by virtue of the number of stars we have, is not dependent on one person," Bivens said yesterday. "Michelle isn't here. Annika isn't here. But Paula's here. Christina's (Kim) here, Cristie's (Kerr) here, Juli Inkster's here.
"Michelle Redman is here. Right on down through the list. I think we're going to see that it only is an additive when the weeks that a Michelle or an Annika plays. That's the advantage that we have of having a lot of different stars."
Not that defending champion Jennifer Rosales is taking note. At this point, she's just trying to get 18 holes in before she tees it up today at 12:02 p.m. Don't get her wrong. She would like to see the world's No. 1 player in the field, but it's not a topic of discussion for the other players.
"Of course," Rosales said when asked on Tuesday if she wished Sorenstam were here. "She has her own thing. It's still a good tournament. Everybody is here. You make the most out of it.
"I think they like it when she's not playing. No, there's no talk at all. 'How come she's not playing? Or she's playing.' We just mind our own business. We play and we play. If she's there, good. If she's not, it's still the same. And you know she plays few events all the year."
As for Wie?
"I didn't even know she's not here," said Rosales, who arrived late Monday night. "Where is she? Tell her to call me, we'll have lunch."
One thing you can count on from Rosales is a little irreverence. The 27-year-old golfer from Southern California marches to the tune of her own putter. Talking with her on Tuesday, you might not think she's fully prepared for today's opening event.
She wanted a tee time for the back nine on Tuesday and didn't get it. So she went to the first tee, waited 45 minutes to see if she could squeeze in her first nine of 2006, before giving up.
So, when was the last time she did play?
"Lexus Cup," Rosales said, then laughed sheepishly since that event was played the first week of December. "I was supposed to play nine holes today (Tuesday). But I didn't get a chance. It was too crowded. Then we decided to eat. And now that I'm full, I tried to go back in my room.
"I didn't play at all. I'm going to play (in yesterday's pro-am). SO READY!
"I just need one 18 in the pro-am. Hopefully it doesn't get canceled or a downpour or something, I am screwed. WOO-HOO. You know, the course didn't change at all. Ask my caddie. It's just the same. So that's why pro-am is a practice round."
Don't expect everyone to take such a lighthearted approach to the first tournament of 2006. Like most of the pros on tour, Rosales is noticing the youth movement of dedicated players. Creamer needed only one year to prove she's the real deal. Wie, Pressel and Miyazato are also part of the next generation promising to rewrite the record books.
Rosales remembers when she came out on tour as a 20-year-old. At 27, her career has been filled with ups and downs. After winning here last year, Rosales was bothered by a nagging wrist injury that put a damper on 2005.
She finished 26th on the money list, managing only two more top 10s.
One reason she hasn't played a lot of golf the last two months was to rest her wrist. The only thing that interfered with her visiting family and friends was the Singapore Open. She believes now that she's fit for duty.
"My wrist is good," Rosales said. "Hopefully, it's going to stay this way the whole year. So I can pace myself better than last year. (The wrist is) always on my mind, but right now, you know, I had two months off, rest it.
"That helped it a little bit, so I don't feel any pain any more as before. So now, I'm getting there and will try to play competitive."
But will that be enough against a competitive field? Rosales is still testing out that theory. She does like the golf course, is able to play well in the wind and has the temperament to handle whatever comes her way.
"I'm not ready like ready," Rosales said, then smiled ruefully. "I'm just trying to come out there and just play my game and see what happens this year. I'm just going to come out there same as I did last year.
"Same strategies and hopefully, it will work again. We'll see. I don't mind playing in the windy weather. I'm kind of used to it back home. It's just a matter of making putts at the end. Hopefully my putting works this week."