Elite LPGA field to test Ko Olina
Michelle Wie's presence at this week's $1.3 million Fields Open at Ko Olina is more of a curiosity than anything else.
Ranked 79th in the world, a good first putt for the former Honolulu resident is to make the cut and then see where that takes her as she tries to regain her swing against some of the game's best.
Not that they are paying that much attention to the Stanford University teenager, who struggled mightily last year in nearly every event she entered. They have their own demons to tame as they test the par-72 course here that may not be quite as difficult as the Arnold Palmer-designed layout at Turtle Bay, but can be tough if the wind blows.
Defending champion Stacy Prammanasudh did a nice job last year, holding off Jee Young Lee by one shot to win her second LPGA Tour event. She went on to finish 14th on the money list with $863,045, a bit of a disappointment considering she won the second event of 2007.
At last week's SBS Open, Prammanasudh finished in a tie for 32nd as she faces a field that has seven of last year's top-10 money-winners and five of the top-10 ranked players in the world, including new No. 2 Annika Sorenstam.
The last time Sorenstam was on this end of the island, she won the 1997 Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open on the nearby Kapolei course designed by Ted Robinson, who also drew up the Ko Olina Golf Resort. Sorenstam has managed three of her 70 LPGA Tour wins in the island chain, and is on a quest to be the top-ranked golfer in the world once more.
"I'm not sure if it is possible," Sorenstam said of catching world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa, who holds a commanding eight-point lead. "I mean, if you won every tournament, you should. I think the key for me now is to play well this year. I am starting way behind in the rankings, because I really did not have many points last year and the year before; not enough wins to even be up there.
"All I can do is go from here and the points will take care of themselves. I just need to focus on what I can do and that's play good golf. That's my goal this year. That's just what I want to do and have some fun, go out there and play the way I know I can."
Ochoa doesn't play in her first event until next week's inaugural tournament in Singapore. The Mexican golfer also has one tournament in her home country before the women's first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in early April. And then one after the Kraft, keeping her dance card filled.
But it would be a mistake to believe this is only a two-woman race. Suzann Pettersen surrendered her No. 2 ranking to Sorenstam this week, dropping to third on the list, but she's coming off a five-win campaign. No. 4 Karrie Webb and fifth-ranked Paula Creamer aren't that far off the pace either, where a good year could put them in contention.
Creamer had a strong final round at the SBS Open to finish in a tie for 12th, and Angela Park had the most birdies last week with 17, before a two-stroke penalty for slow play derailed her chances of tracking down Sorenstam. She finished in tie for third here last year and is motivated after what happened last week.