Lorena Ochoa looking to defend Kraft repeat celebration

By Associated PressApril 1, 2009, 4:00 pm
2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' As remarkable as her victory was in the Kraft Nabisco Championship last year, Lorena Ochoas celebration was even more memorable.
It was nothing short of a fiesta.
Having finally won the major that had given her fits, Ochoa set the silver trophy on a table, joined hands with her parents and sister-in-law, and sprinted to the edge of the lake surrounding the 18th green at Mission Hills. She raised both arms as she plunged into the water.
Lorena Ochoa
Lorena Ochoa prepares for her title defense Wednesday. (Getty Images)
Her caddie, swing coach and other family members joined her. Before long, two dozen friends and family members were bobbing in the water to the rhythm of a mariachi band.
Ochoas lasting memory? Having so many Mexicans in the lake.
It was natural. It was something that happened because we were there for so many years, same friends and relatives, and we all wanted to be in the lake, Ochoa said.
Ochoa begins defense of her title on Thursday in the first major of the year on the LPGA, looking for another visit to the lake Sunday.
The Mexican star is so popular that last years splashfest included a handful of people she didnt know, you know, friends of friends. She met them at a party the night before and they promised to jump, too, if she won.
And they keep their promise, so it was nice, she said.
Last year at Mission Hills, Ochoa won her second straight major to run her season-opening victory streak to three. She finished with a 5-under 67 to beat Suzann Pettersen and Annika Sorenstam by five strokes.
I just needed to be patient, she said. And sometimes the more you want it, the more you try, it gets harder. I loved winning last year. I think it was the right time for me. You know, I was prepared and I was mentally ready and the way it happened Sunday, it was amazing.
Maybe it raises our expectations for it, and Im going to be there just 100 percent, trying to do my best. I think being consistent is very important. And I would love to get myself a chance to win on Sunday.
Ochoa opened her season with a victory in the Honda LPGA Thailand, her 25th LPGA title. She followed with a sixth-place tie in Singapore in the HSBC Womens Champions, tied for second in the MasterCard Classic in Mexico and tied for 15th last week in Phoenix.
Ochoa likes playing Mission Hills.
I think its all about the atmosphere and how do you feel being there, she said. I played that tournament for so many years, even when I was an amateur, and all I have is good memories there. And when I dream, I dream in the Nabisco dream ' same course, every hole I memorize the driver, you know, the shape of the fairways. For sure its something that I love and Im going to try to bring all those memories back.
Among those chasing Ochoa will be Michelle Wie, now a card-carrying member of the LPGA.
Wie is back at Mission Hills for the first time since 2006, when she had a chance to win the Kraft Nabisco with a 25-foot eagle chip from just off the 18th green. It went 10 feet by the hole, and she missed the birdie putt to get into a playoff.
The 19-year-old Stanford sophomore, still seeking her first tour victory, is making her third start of the year. She finished second in the season-opening SBS Open in Hawaii and tied for 57th last week in Phoenix, shooting 73-76-74-73.
Wie said shes trying to leave her struggles in the past.
I guess I just take a different outlook on my life, she said. Just trying to stop worrying about stuff that I cant handle. Ive stopped worrying about things that I cant have any control over. Im just going to try my hardest in everything that I do and how I play, and if it works out, then great. If it doesnt, then I know Ive tried my hardest, and I think its a lot less stress on me. Its a lot less pressure.
I still want to play really great. I want to win, but I cant really control that. All I can control is how I play and how hard I try. So Im just focusing on that, so its a lot easier for me.
Part of looking ahead even means planning a jump into the lake should she win.
I hopefully want it to be a graceful jump, but itll probably turn out to be a really ugly one, unfortunately, but I dont really care as long as I get to, she said.
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.