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Krafty Devils?
The warm-up over, the women's golf season really gets underway this week with the first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills in Palm Springs, where a glorious array of flowers can easily make you forget you are in the middle of the desert.

Hopefully, and without tempting fate, the Scottish threat has never been stronger.
Underlining the strength of the tartan contingent is the fact that four have qualified for a field featuring the leading 122 players - Catriona Matthew, Janice Moodie, Mhairi McKay and Kathryn Marshall - compared to just two from England, Laura Davies and Alison Nicholas.
Last year, Moodie tied for second place, three shots behind Annika Sorenstam, and it rates as the best ever performance by a Scot in a women's major. Later in the season, Matthew tied for fourth at the US Open and Moodie and Matthew were joint third at the British Open.

So could we be celebrating our first winner come Sunday? Early season form certainly suggests that all are capable, with McKay, making her Nabisco debut, the top of the quartet so far with a top ten, top 15 and top 20 from the first three starts.
Having lived in the shadows of her compatriots since joining the US LPGA Tour in 1998, McKay has suddenly become a real force.
Her progress was hampered by a decision to make some quite drastic changes to her swing, but she is now a much more grooved performer, and that all essential ingredient - confidence - has begun to flow.

"There is a real difference this season," she reflected.
"Usually, I come out worried about making a good start to the season. But, this time, I'm feeding off last year (she rose to number 24 on the money list) and I don't feel nearly so anxious.
"I'm really looking forward to this week. I've never played in the tournament, but I've spent a lot of time in Palm Springs and I know the course quite well. Majors are always special."

And she should have fond memories of major debuts. It was as a rookie in 1998 that she actually led in the final round of the US Open before going on to finish joint seventh.

For all four Scots, there are two major goals this year - a win and a place in the Europe's Solheim Cup team to defend the trophy at Interlachen in Minnesota in September.
Mind you, Moodie has another date on her mind, her wedding to American Tim Carneval on October 19. The pair got engaged at Christmas - he proposed in front of the fire in the clubhouse after a round of golf at Pebble Beach in California - and they will marry at Grand Cypress Golf Club (where she is a member) in Orlando in Florida.

"Everything's arranged," she proudly confirms.
"I've got my dress the bridesmaids' and I've even persuaded Tim to wear a kilt. There are going to be 150 people and my Mum and Dad and brother will all be coming over from Clydebank. It should be fun."

However, while she might become a US citizen (apparently, it's good for tax reasons!) and she now really thinks of America as 'home', she says she will never forget her Scottish roots, and it would certainly give her the greatest pleasure to become the first to raise the Saltire at the conclusion of a major. Maybe on Sunday?

As for Matthew and Marshall, they are the veterans of the Scots, and a pair that travel the circuit with husbands (cum-caddies) in tow.
Much to her disgust, Marshall did not qualify for the Nabisco last year - this is her sixth appearance and her best was a tie for 16th in 1997 - while Matthew has a best of seventh three years.
Last year, she had a disastrous 84 in the first round and, despite bouncing back with a 69 that said much for her guts and determination, she still missed the cut.

With her parents over from North Berwick, she is hoping that she doesn't give anyone a free weekend.
All in all, it promises to be an intriguing week for the Scots - I just hope I haven't put the jinx on them.

©    27 - MARCH 2002

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