RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Natalie Gulbis is returning to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship after recovering from malaria.
Infected by a mosquito during the LPGA Thailand event, Gulbis withdrew after the first round the following week in Singapore. She hoped to return two weeks ago in Carlsbad at the Kia Classic, but was back in the doctor's office after a practice round.
"It's been a pretty rough month," Gulbis said Wednesday, a day before the start of play in the first major championship of the year. "I've been trying to play, and then I'll fall back and rest for a couple of days, and then I try to play again, and I'm back to square one. Hopefully, I'm past that part and I'm doing better every day.
"I'm just so excited to be back. Not only to be back here in this event, but back playing golf. I mean, yesterday was the first time I've played 18 holes since Singapore, and I really missed being on the golf course."
She was looking forward to playing in 90-degree heat at Mission Hills.
"I love the heat," Gulbis said. "I'm a California girl who went to school in Arizona and lives in Las Vegas. So the heat feels great and I love being out in the heat. This is a good test for everybody out here this week. It's going to be hot. It's a major championship. It's a tough golf course, and we have to be well prepared."
The 30-year-old Gulbis won the 2007 Evian Masters for her lone LPGA Tour title.
PUTTING PERSPECTIVE: I.K. Kim is back at Mission Hills, a year after missing a 1-foot putt on the final hole of regulation to blow a one-stroke lead.
"You got to just pick yourself up and be tough and just move on," Kim said. "Don't really feel sorry for yourself, because it's life. You have to be happy and enjoy what you have."
She ended up losing when fellow South Korean player Sun Young Yoo made an 18-foot birdie putt on the first hole of a playoff.
"I learned a lot," Kim said. "I think last year was big turning point of my life of learning and what's really important. It just gave me different view of it.
"It was tough to handle at first, but I think it's important not only to the viewers and the people, but to let other people, younger generation, to know that it's not always going to be glorious and like victory. Life is not about winning or losing. When you're 80 and look back, you're not going to remember, `Oh, I should have made that putt.'"
Kim is coming off a playoff loss to Beatriz Recari in the Kia Classic.
"Even Stephen Hawking said in the time travel you cannot go back and do things backwards again, so you just got to live today," Kim said. "We're human. We remember things good or bad. You sometimes live in that memory, and I don't want to be that person."
STARRING ROLE: Top-ranked Stacy Lewis is getting used to the spotlight.
"I guess I'm just more comfortable with who I am and more comfortable being in front of people," Lewis said. "I mean, certainly I think the kid that went to college and didn't speak unless spoken to would not be up on this stage right now. It's something I've had to learn how to do, just when you play good golf."
The 28-year-old Texas won consecutive tournaments this year in Singapore and Phoenix to take the No. 1 spot in the world. She won the 2011 Kraft Nabisco for her first LPGA Tour title and had four victories last season to become the tour's player of the year.
On Monday night at the pro-am party, she wore a one-shoulder patterned dress and heels.
"That's probably the place I'm least comfortable because it's not my style at all," Lewis said. "I'm more comfortable in jeans, a T-shirt, and flip flops. I'm getting used to it. Having some help from my sisters, that definitely helps the process a little bit.
"But I realize it's part of what makes this tour successful and part of the deal when you get to the top. You kind of have to do it. I actually picked out that dress all by myself. They should be pretty impressed with that."
DIVOTS: Fourteen-year-old Angel Lin shot a 67 in the Legends Junior Challenge on Tuesday to earn a spot in the field. Lin is from Arcadia, Calif. ... The event, first played in 1972 as the Colgate Dinah Shore, became a major in 1983.