Posted: Wednesday March 29, 2006 1:11PM; Updated: Friday March 31, 2006 2:13AM
The day is coming soon when Michelle Wie will claim her first LPGA title.
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Alan Shipnuck will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
Forgive me for your interrupting your preparation for the Masters office pool, but I thought I should point out that another major championship is being played this week, the Dinah Shore. I'm not sure if anyone besides me cares about the LPGA -- the feedback on this column will be a good indicator -- but the Masters is still a week away and I'm already tiring of the hype, so let's try talking about something else. Here are 10 key questions heading into the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
1. Will Annika win the Grand Slam this year? Uh, no. As overpowering as Sorenstam has become, she is still often humbled at the major championships, and the self-imposed pressure to Slam has backfired the last two seasons.
Annika is to the Dinah as Tiger is to the Masters -- each has won three of the last five of their sport's signature events -- so don't be surprised if she wins this week, or even at the season's second major, the LPGA Championship, at which she is going for a four-peat.
But, amazingly, Annika hasn't taken a U.S. Open since 1996, mostly because she wants it too much, and she's won only one British Open, mostly because the quirkiness of links golf doesn't suit her precision game. Two majors a year is not a bad living, but it ain't no Slam.
2. Will Michelle Wie win this year? Yes, but not at the Dinah. I loved her dis of Rush Limbaugh in the latest Time but was also intrigued that in the same interview she cited Matisyahu as what she is listening to these days. King Without a Crown? She's Queen Without a Trophy, but her game is maturing, and so is she. The weeds at Mission Hills don't favor her, but she has still put herself in position three years running. If she doesn't close the deal this week, it will certainly happen soon.
3. Is Natalie Gulbis for real? Well, they are, but is she? Gulbis has three top fives already this year, coming off a season in which she had 12 top 10s. You gotta figure that if she keeps hanging around at enough tournaments, she'll eventually get that elusive first win. But it's hard to have total confidence in a player who owns the game's weirdest swing and zaniest putting stroke, so I'm reserving judgment until at least her second victory, whenever that is.
4. Is Grace Park done at 27? Her win at the 2004 Dinah was supposed to propel her to the big time, but she's been slowed ever since by back injuries, going winless last year and skidding to 34th on the money list. Every time I see her walking down the fairway, she looks like an old man who just got out of bed. Supposedly she's been working out a lot and her back is in better shape, but she's missed three straight cuts this year, with sporty rounds of 77 and 79 thrown in. Using Fred Couples' career as a guide, it's a good bet Park will never be the same player she was.