This Week in Golf - March 29th through April 1st

This Week in Golf - March 29th through April 1st

This Week in Golf - March 29th through April 1st
March 26th, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - LPGA TOUR - KRAFT NABISCO CHAMPIONSHIP, Mission Hills Country Club (Dinah Shore Tournament Course), Rancho Mirage, California - The 2007 major championship season kicks off with the Kraft Nabisco Championship this week.

This event will be hard pressed to top the drama of 2006. Karrie Webb fired a seven-under 65 in the final round to catch Lorena Ochoa and force a playoff. Easier said than done, of course.

That closing 65 was punctuated by a hole-out eagle on the 72nd hole. Ochoa, who had led since an opening-round 62, matched that eagle to shoot even-par 72 and force the extra session.

The playoff lasted just one hole, the par-five 18th, where Webb got up and down for birdie for the win. The title was Webb's second at this event and seventh major title overall.

With two of the tour's best battling it out in a playoff for the title, that would seem like enough, but it wasn't the whole story. Teen sensation Michelle Wie owned the lead on the back nine, but could only par the final two holes to end one back.

Joining her in a tie for third was Natalie Gulbis. Gulbis, who is still searching for her first tour win, closed with back-to-back rounds of 68 to end at minus-eight.

Women's World No. 1 Annika Sorenstam has a stellar record at this event. Since 1996, she has finished outside the top-eight just twice. Sorenstam owns three wins and two second-place finishes.

Nineteen of the top 20 players in the world are in the field this week. The only one missing the event is Wie, who is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The Kraft Nabisco and next week's major, the Masters, are the only two majors that have been played on the same course since their inception.

ESPN2 has two hours of coverage each of the first three rounds, before CBS broadcasts the action in the final round.

After a one-week break, the LPGA Tour returns to action with the Ginn Open in Florida. Last year, Mi Hyun Kim held off Webb and Ochoa for the win.

PGA TOUR

SHELL HOUSTON OPEN, Redstone Golf Club Tournament Course, Humble, Texas - Last year, Stuart Appleby walked off with his second win of the season as he went wire-to-wire for a six-stroke victory.

Appleby closed with a five-under 67 to match the largest winning margin in event history. The Australian also became the first player in the 60-year history of the Houston Open to go wire-to-wire for the win.

Appleby had won the Mercedes Championship -- for the third straight year -- earlier in the season for his first win of '06.

With the big change in the PGA Tour schedule, this event is being played three weeks earlier than last year. In 2006, the Houston Open was two weeks after the Masters, however this season it is the week prior to the season's first major.

Being the week before the Masters, many of the top players in the world are taking the week off as just two of the top-10 will be at Redstone this week.

However, the field will boast some of Europe's best as they come over to the U.S. to prepare for the first major of '07. Among the European Tour stalwarts teeing it up this week are Lee Westwood, 2005 U.S. Open Champion Michael Campbell, Peter Lonard, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jeev Milkha Singh.

Redstone is hosting the event for the second straight year after 27 years in The Woodlands area. The TPC of The Woodlands had hosted the previous 18 years.

As usual the Golf Channel will cover the opening two rounds. After that, the NBC golf team takes over for the final two rounds.

Next week, the world's best will be at Augusta National Golf Club for the Masters, where Phil Mickelson will defend his title.

EUROPEAN TOUR

ESTORIL OPEN DE PORTUGAL, Quinta da Marinha, Oitavos Golfe, Portugal - Paul Broadhurst will look to join some elite company this week as he goes for a three-peat.

Broadhurst could join Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Tiger Woods and Ian Woosnam as the only players to win the same event three straight years.

What makes Broadhurst different than that group? Well, he owns six European Tour titles. The other five have combined to collect 143 titles on the European Tour. Just a slight difference there. Els has the fewest wins of that quintet with 23.

"I just want to get off to a good a start and if I can get into contention, hopefully the experience of the last two years will pull me through," said Broadhurst. "To win it twice was brilliant and it would be fantastic to win for a third time and join that list of players."

With many of the top players in the world either taking the week off prior to the Masters or playing on the PGA Tour, one would think Broadhurst would have an easy week going for the three-peat.

However, this week's field includes 61 European Tour winners including 1999 British Open Champion Paul Lawrie and Ryder Cup player Paul McGinley.

The Golf Channel will have morning coverage of all four rounds this week.

Next week is the season's first major, the Masters. Phil Mickelson will be at Augusta National to defend his title. The following week the European Tour returns to action with the Volvo China Open, where Jeev Milkha Singh won last year.

CHAMPIONS TOUR

GINN CHAMPIONSHIP AT HAMMOCK BEACH, Ocean Hammock Golf Club, Palm Coast, Florida - The Champions Tour returns to action after a one-week break with a new event this week.

The Ginn Championship at Hammock Beach joins the Champions Tour schedule. It is hosted by the Ginn Sports Entertainment company, which also hosts two events on the LPGA Tour.

The event will be contested on the Jack Nicklaus-signature Ocean Hammock Golf Course.

The field will be headlined by the season's first seven winners -- Hale Irwin, Fred Funk, Mark James, Tom Watson, Bobby Wadkins, Jay Haas and Tom Purtzer.

The Golf Channel will be busy again this week, as it also has afternoon coverage of all three rounds.

After a two-week break, the Champions Tour returns to action in South Carolina with the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, where Jay Haas is expected to defend his title.

NATIONWIDE TOUR

LIVERMORE VALLEY WINE COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP, The Course at Wente Vineyards, Livermore, California - The Nationwide Tour plays its second event in the U.S. this week, heading to California for the Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship.

Last year, Tripp Isenhour won for the second time in 2006 season. Isenhour closed with a four-under 68 to win by three strokes over Paul Sheehan.

The big swing came at the par-four 17th when Isenhour rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt, while Sheehan found water off the tee and walked away with a double-bogey. That three-stroke swing was the difference. Neither Isenhour nor Sheehan is in the field this week.

The Course at Wente Vineyards is a Greg Norman-designed course and has hosted this event both years.

The Golf Channel has early evening coverage of all four rounds this week. The Nationwide Tour returns in two weeks with the South Georgia Classic, which is a new event.

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