RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — If Karrie Webb had her way, Dinah Shore would be back on the marquee at the first major championship of the season.
Kraft Nabisco is in its final year as the title sponsor, leaving the LPGA Tour looking for a replacement in the event that began in 1972 as the Colgate Dinah Shore and is now called the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
”My opinion, I have voiced it a few times in the last year or so, is that I think Dinah Shore’s name should come back onto the event just to keep that identity,” said Webb, a two-time winner in the event that starts Thursday at Mission Hills.
The 39-year-old Hall of Famer first played the event in 1996 and is adamant that it stays at Mission Hills.
”It definitely needs to stay here,” Webb said. ”There’s too much history and too much tradition here. If the LPGA lacks anything, in any other events, it’s that.”
Nabisco dropped Shore’s name from the title in 2000, though the tournament is still referred to as ”The Dinah Shore” or simply ”The Dinah” 20 years after the singer and television star’s death.
”If I had one tournament to go try to sell, I’d sure like to try to sell this one,” said Hall of Famer Judy Rankin, the Golf Channel analyst who won the 1976 event — then called the Colgate Dinah Shore Winner’s Circle.
”Corporately, I do think there’s this sense that everything will be OK because it’s such a magnificent product in women’s golf and on the LPGA Tour. . . . As far as product goes in the commercial world of women’s professional golf, it’s right there at the top.”
Even without her name in the title, Shore is still a headliner at Mission Hills. Dinah Shore Drive runs past the main entrance to the 54-hole facility and the event is played on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course. There’s also a statue of Shore waving to the gallery at the end of the Walk of Champions that leads to the 18th green.
”She was always very gracious,” said Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, the 1984 and 1989 winner. ”She was just a superstar in a normal body. She never thought she was bigger than who she was inside.”
Webb has a deep appreciation of the tour’s history. After winning the Founders Cup — the tournament that honors the 13 women who started the LPGA Tour in 1950 — two weeks ago in Phoenix, she donated $25,000 to the ”The Founders” documentary.
The Australian won at Mission Hills in 2000 and 2006. In 2006, she won the last of her seven major titles, holing out from 116 yards for eagle on the par-5 18th hole, then beating Lorena Ochoa in a playoff.
”I love this event,” Webb said. ”I love the history and the tradition. I love that I’m a champion of this event, being a part of that history.”
She also won the Women’s Australian Open this year and has 41 LPGA Tour titles.
”I feel like my game is as good as it’s ever been as far as having the ability to win majors,” Webb said. ”Obviously, starting the year off as well as I have, it gives me that little bit of confidence going into this week that if I get things going, hopefully, down the stretch on Sunday, I’ll have a shot to win.”
Last year, Inbee Park won the first of her three straight major victories, beating So Yeon Ryu by four strokes. The top-ranked Park won six times last season.
”Last year at the end of the year, I thought too much on the majors, thinking I needed to do something special or different,” Park said. ”I’m just trying to do everything the same this tournament.”
She won a Ladies European Tour event last month in China and has finished in the top 10 in all four of her LPGA Tour starts.
”I’m very happy with where I am with my game, the way I’m striking the ball,” Park said. ”My putting is not going in at the moment. Hopefully, I can putt like last year.”
Anna Nordqvist won the Kia Classic on Sunday in Carlsbad for her second victory of the season. In February, the Swede held off Park in the LPGA Thailand to end a five-year victory drought.
”My game is in a good spot,” Nordqvist said. ”So, obviously, I’m excited to go into this week. My confidence is high. I’m having a good time.”