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Na Yeon Choi ready for triumphant leap of faith

Victory at this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship would give South Korea's Choi Na-yeon her first major title but would also require a leap of faith she was unprepared for just 12 months ago.

Tradition dictates that the winner of the year's first women's major at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, California has to jump into Poppies Pond, which borders the 18th green on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course.

For Choi, who as a young child was saved from drowning by her father, any thought of this celebratory plunge was once a frightening prospect.

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"Every day I look at the pond, but I don't know how to swim," the 24-year-old Korean told reporters after carding a flawless five-under-par 67 in Friday's second round to surge into contention for the title. "I'm very scared of water.

"I told my caddie last year before the tournament started, 'If I win this tournament, I can't jump in the water. You have to jump in. I can't. I'm very scared'. But he said, 'You don't have to think about that. After you win, figure it out'.

"Even this year I talked to my caddie about it. But, you know, if I win this tournament this week, I think I can do it."

Asked what had happened to her as a young child, Choi replied: "When I was young, four or five years old, I was in the lake with my family. I fell down in the water and I almost died and my father saved me."

Since turning professional in late 2004, Choi has established herself as one of the leading players on the LPGA Tour, where she has triumphed five times.

In 2010, she won twice on the U.S. circuit before ending the year by clinching the money list title and also the prestigious Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average, with 69.8.

She has yet to win a major title, though, and this week offers another chance to change that.

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"This is one of my favourite tournaments," Choi said. "If I win this tournament, I'd be very honoured and very happy."

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