If Bradley needed any further convincing, she received it last week at a players' meeting, during which video highlights of her big year were shown. Afterward, the 140-plus players gave her a standing ovation. "It was wonderful," said Bradley, who admits that her iron exterior was on the verge of cracking from emotion. "They've watched it for 13 years—the close calls and the great years that just weren't good enough. They all knew a year like last year was a dream of mine."
Lopez applauded as loudly as anyone. "Pat really deserved it," she said. "If you've ever lived that kind of year, remembering it can bring tears to your eyes." For Lopez, another such year would include winning her first U.S. Open and another Vare Trophy (for lowest scoring average) and being named Player of the Year for the fourth time. The next tournament she wins will automatically place her in the LPGA Hall of Fame.
Attaining those goals is not going to be easy. Lopez is still about 20 pounds overweight from her pregnancy, although she is on a strict diet and is dropping weight quickly. She also must battle chronic tendinitis in her toes. At the Mazda, Lopez eased the pain by wrapping her feet before play. She is also determined to have Erinn and Ashley, her three-year-old daughter, and a nanny accompany her on the tour.
Even after her disappointing opening round of 77 and some spotty play the rest of the tournament, which left her tired, Lopez was still encouraged. "My game is not that far away," she said. "It's pretty close."
Bradley was almost all the way there. She demonstrated her relentless consistency with rounds of 72-72-72. On Sunday, she challenged the leaders but couldn't get a birdie putt to fall on the back nine and had to settle for 71.
What's in store the rest of the year? Carner, who has been No. 1 three times since she joined the tour in 1970, thinks the Bradley-Lopez rivalry will be good for the tour. "Pat is more aggressive, more confident than she's ever been," said Big Mama, "so you'd have to give her an edge right now. But Nancy is one of those rare ones. This is what she plays for. She loves this stuff. It's gonna be something."