Lee Leads Annika Ochoa Close

By Associated PressJune 7, 2008, 4:00 pm
McDonalds LPGAHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. -- Lorena Ochoa chopped into the mangled grass and was stunned to see her ball hop only a few inches, sending her to a double bogey as her hopes for a third straight major championship slipped away from her.
 
By the time she recovered, she found some perspective in the McDonalds LPGA Championship, along with a familiar name.
 
Ochoa was only two shots out the lead, trailing two players who have never seriously contended in a major.
 
And she was tied with Annika Sorenstam, out to make history of her own in her final season on the LPGA Tour.
 
Im just glad I have a chance tomorrow, Ochoa said.
 
Stifling heat that turned Bulle Rock into an oven cooked up quite a treat on Saturday.
 
Jee Young Lee played her final four holes in 4-under par and surged into the lead with a 7-under 65, putting her one shot ahead of Maria Hjorth, who also had a 65. They are among the longest hitters in womens golf.
 
Joining them in the final group will be Sorenstam, trying to join the great Mickey Wright as a four-time winner of this major. Sorenstam has gone 30 holes without a bogey, and she rarely found trouble on her way to a 68 that put her two shots behind.
 
The key in majors is not how its done; youve got to get it done, Sorenstam said. Thats what Ive got to do tomorrow.
 
The only disappointment was that Ochoa and Sorenstam, Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, wont get a chance to play together. LPGA officials, fearful of more fog that delayed the start of the third round, opted for threesomes on Sunday.
 
Sorenstam will play with Lee, whose 25-foot birdie on the last hole gave her the lead at 12-under 204, and Hjorth, a fellow Swede.
 
Ochoa birdied two of her last three holes to salvage an even-par 72, tied for third with Sorenstam.
 
I would have probably liked to have played with Annika, Ochoa said. I think it would have been fun for us and for all of you. But its OK. Its better when they know what I have done. That will be important, to get a good start and to put my name up there. And they can stay with the pressure in the last group.
 
Ten players were within five shots of Lee, who won an LPGA Tour event in her native South Korea three years ago when she was 19.
 
Ive been waiting to win the tournament ever since I came to the United States, she said through a translator. And to win the major tournament here would be really exciting for me. And Im really looking forward to winning this tournament.
 
Hjorth ran off four birdies at the turn, took the outright lead on No. 12 and saved par after a tee shot on the 18th hole hit a cart path and bounded into the mounds of thick rough.
 
Its still a golf ball youre going to hit. Its still a golf course youre going to play, Hjorth said. As long as I dont occupy my mind with thinking, Oh, this is the last group in a major, hopefully I can handle it well. And Im looking forward to it.
 
The toughest part of Saturday was handling the heat.
 
Temperatures climbed past 100, and most players carried umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun. It felt even hotter with no breeze, with the tops of 60-foot oak trees not moving an inch.
 
Add to that the pressure of a final round at a major, especially with Ochoa and Sorenstam right in the mix.
 
Everybody is looking forward to tomorrow and everybody wants it badly, Sorenstam said. The one that wins is the one that stays cool, stays patient and makes less mistakes. So thats going to be my plan.
 
Ochoa had gone 30 holes without a bogey at Bulle Rock until a three-putt on the opening hole.
 
The big blow came at the par-3 seventh. She pulled her tee shot left of the green into a mangled lie. She tried a flop shot over the bunker, but it was more like a foul tip. The ball squirted a few inches, Ochoa made double bogey and suddenly was three shots behind.
 
A half-dozen players had at least a share of the lead at one point, with Sorenstam generating as much excitement as the gallery could muster. With temperatures climbing past 100, it felt like a sauna with no help from wind. Even the tops of 60-foot oak trees didnt move.
 
But it was loud enough, especially as Ochoa was walking up the fifth fairway and heard a cheer through the trees on the sixth green, where Sorenstam had stuck another close for birdie.
 
That gave her a share of the lead, but only briefly, for Hjorth soon pulled ahead with an 8-iron to 8 feet for birdie at the 12th.
 
Sorenstam slowed with pars. Brittany Lang, tied for the lead at 10 under, fell back on the 13th when she went from one nasty lie in the rough to another and took double bogey.
 
Lang finished with a 71 and was in the group at 8-under 208 that included Laura Diaz (69) and Yani Tseng of Taiwan (65). Also in that group was Lindsey Wright, the first play to reach 11 under with a birdie at No. 8, who faulted on the back and shot 73.
 
The third round was played in threesomes because of fog so thick it delayed the start by three hours. Most players probably wished the fog had stayed, for the blistering sunshine that broke through the haze led nearly everyone to carry an umbrella to shield the rays.
 
Just as long as you try to drink and not think about it too much, it worked for me, Hjorth said.
 
More high temperatures are expected for the final round, and Sorenstam already was thinking ahead.
 
Im not going to wear a brown top tomorrow, she said.
 
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  • Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.