Ochoa Annika Set for SoCal Battle

By Associated PressApril 2, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Annika Sorenstam once showed up at Mission Hills wearing red shoes in the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, a bold commentary on her confidence more than any kind of fashion statement.
That was in 2002, and when she defended her title that day with a one-shot victory, there was no doubt who ruled womens golf.
Just like theres nos question now.
Those red shoes are now in a trophy case at her golf academy in Florida, and Sorenstam might want to slip them on, click her heels and wish she were home, which for her would be back at No. 1 in the world.
But she is seemingly miles away from Lorena Ochoa, evident not only in the world ranking but in conversation. During a 20-minute interview, Ochoa was asked four questions about Tiger Woods, none about Sorenstam.
Its almost as if Sorenstam no longer exists.
Ive come to the back nine of my career, Sorenstam said Wednesday on the eve of the LPGA Tours first major.
What she could use is a Sunday charge.
Sorenstam won the season-opener at Turtle Bay in Hawaii. She has broken par in all 14 rounds she has played this year. She feels good, looks fit and believes she can become the first four-time winner of the Kraft Nabisco.
But she hasnt made up any ground.
Ochoa waited until Singapore to make her 08 debut, then won by 11 shots. In what might be the strongest field of the year on the LPGA Tour last week outside Phoenix, Ochoa missed a half-dozen putts inside 10 feet and still won by seven.
Shes playing some spectacular golf right now, Sorenstam said. Im just focusing on the things I can control, and thats my own game things I want to achieve. If I achieve my goals, I think things will fall into place. A good season for me would be several wins, a few majors and just being the best player out here.
I have high expectations of myself, and I believe I can do it.
It all starts with a splash, the symbol of a major championship that has become among the most exciting in golf, and not just because the winner traditionally jumps into the lake surrounding the 18th green at Mission Hills.
A year ago, Morgan Pressel played the final 24 holes without a bogey and at 18 became the youngest major champion in LPGA history. Even more stunning was 2006, when Karrie Webb holed out for eagle with a pitching wedge on the 18th fairway, then defeated Ochoa on the first playoff hole with a birdie.
That was as close as Ochoa has come to winning what must feel like her home major.
She began playing Mission Hills as a teenager when she dominated college golf at Arizona. The support she feels in the Coachella Valley is second only to what she gets in her native Mexico, with so many family and friends in the gallery, along with fans from the area who make their presence known by waving the Mexican flag.
Tournament typically give players tickets for their family. Ochoa asked for 100.
Well see how many I can get, and Ill just pay the rest, she said with a laugh.
Ochoa was asked at the start of the year what came to mind when she heard Sorenstams name.
That shes coming after me, Ochoa said. I know Annika. I know she likes to win. Shes very strong and shes ready to play good. But Im prepared. I know I can be here. Its going to be a good year.
Ochoa has never jumped into the water that surrounds the 18th green, a tradition that began 20 years ago when Amy Alcott won.
The Kraft Nabisco has the smallest field among LPGA majors, with only 109 players, including select amateur. But it is opportunity for young and old, as Pressel showed last year, and as Laura Davies and Meg Mallon would love to experience for the first time.
Davies is 44, and a victory this week would give her the career Grand Slam and make her eligible for the World Golf Hall of Fame. Mallon turns 45 next week, and lacks only the Nabisco for the Grand Slam.
Even so, the focus is squarely on Ochoa, who captured her first major last summer at the Womens British Open and is heavily favored at Mission Hills, mainly because she has won twice this year by a combined 18 shots.
She likes being No. 1 and has no plans to leave, all of which makes Sorenstams chase even more difficult.
Her decline began at this tournament last year. Sorenstam tied for 30th, and a month later, learned she had disk problems in her back and neck and forced her out of golf for two months. She failed to win on the LPGA Tour for the first time as Ochoa got farther and farther away from her in the world ranking.
Its different to chase somebody than being chased, Sorenstam said. I was disappointed to lose the No. 1 spot that I had for a while, and I enjoyed being up there. With the injury, that was a huge setback for me. Im in a different situation today. Its not just me trying to chase Lorena. Its about me trying to play the golf I know how.
I know I have it in me, and Im just going to let it happen, she said. Im hitting the ball well. I won this year. I have all the ingredients I need.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Kraft Nabisco Championship
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Fathauer dunks one off flagstick for eagle

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 17, 2018, 7:45 pm

    The NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest will take place Saturday night in Los Angeles, but Derek Fathauer kicked things off a little early with this eagle in the third round of the Genesis Open.

    Playing his second shot on the par-4 third hole at Riviera Country Club, Fathauer dunked one off the flagstick and into the hole for an eagle-2:

    The shot got the the 32-year-old, in search of his first PGA Tour victory, under par for the round and into the mix early on Moving Day.

    Getty Images

    Luiten in three-way tie at Oman Open

    By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 4:17 pm

    MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten showed a return to form after a mediocre 2017 as he moved into a three-way tie for the lead in the Oman Open on Saturday.

    The Dutchman shot a second straight 6-under 66 - the joint best score of the day - to move to 12-under 204. He was joined at the top by Matthew Southgate (69) and Frenchman Julien Guerrier (66) after the third round at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf Club.

    England's Chris Wood (69), another man on the comeback trail, was in fourth place at 11 under, but it could have been a lot better if not for a bogey-bogey finish. Adrian Otaegui (66) was a shot behind Wood while pre-tournament favorite, France's Alexander Levy (67), was at 9 under.

    The 90th-ranked Luiten credited some hot iron play for his success after a cracked driver set him back last year when he had just two top-10 finishes the whole season.

    Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

    ''I cracked my driver in my first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi and it took me almost six months to get another one that I really liked. Once you are not driving the ball well, it puts pressure on other parts of your game,'' said the 32-year-old Luiten. ''My iron play did not get me into trouble at all today.''

    Southgate was quick off the block with three birdies in his first three holes. But the Englishman then made two bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes, and a birdie on the ninth saw him make the turn at even-par.

    That forced him to think differently for the back nine and he was rewarded with three birdies.

    ''It was quite funny really,'' Southgate said. ''We birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary ... 'We've just shot level par, so let's just pretend that we've made nine solid pars and that we haven't holed a putt and haven't made a birdie. Let's just start again on the 10th'.''

    The 32-year-old Guerrier started his round with a monster 48-foot birdie putt and had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys.

    Getty Images

    J.Y. Ko increases lead; Lydia focuses on positives

    By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 3:33 pm

    ADELAIDE, Australia - Jin Young Ko continued her domination of the Women's Australian Open, shooting a 1-under 71 Saturday to increase her lead to four strokes after three rounds.

    The South Korean, who led after each of the opening two rounds of the LPGA tournament, had a three-round total of 11-under 205 at Kooyonga Golf Club.

    Australian golfer Hannah Green moved into second place after the round of the day, a 66.

    Green, 21, is seeking to become the first Australian to claim her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014. Webb, who is playing a part-time schedule in 2018, missed the cut Friday by one stroke.

    Green birdied her first three holes on Saturday and then added two more on the eighth and ninth. Two more birdies followed on the back nine with her only dropped shot a bogey on the 17th.

    Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

    "I was very pleased with my ball striking," Green said. "I have put myself in contention so I'm very happy with how things are panning out.

    "It was a real shame about Karrie missing the cut, but I know she has got different plans."

    South Korea's Hyejin Choi (70), was tied for third, five strokes behind. Australia's top-ranked golfer Minjee Lee was tied for fifth after a 69, six off the lead.

    Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 71 and was eight strokes behind.

    "It's always nice to be able to start the season on a good note, and I've obviously got tomorrow," Lydia Ko said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to finish off on a high note."

    Getty Images

    Cantlay, McDowell, Saunders share lead at Riviera

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 17, 2018, 3:51 am

    LOS ANGELES - Tiger Woods waited 12 years to get back to Riviera and lasted only two days.

    Woods had three straight bogeys early on the back nine Friday and didn't play well enough to make up for his misses. He had a 5-over 76 and missed the cut in the Genesis Open for the first time in nine appearances as a pro.

    He was at 6-over 148, one shot worse than his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old at Riviera.

    ''I missed every tee shot left and I did not putt well, didn't feel very good on the greens,'' Woods said. ''And consequently, never made a run. I knew I had to make a run on that back nine, and I went the other way.''

    Patrick Cantlay ran off three straight birdies toward the end of his morning round, starting with a tap-in on the par-3 sixth when he missed a hole-in-one by a fraction of an inch, and shot a 69. He was tied with Graeme McDowell (66), the former U.S. Open champion who is trying to work his way back from a two-year slump.

    They were at 7-under 135.

    Sam Saunders also was at 7 under, making back-to-back birdies until it was too dark to continue. He had three holes remaining in his second round. Ryan Moore bogeyed his final hole for a 68 and was one shot behind at 136.

    Rory McIlroy overcame a few short misses on the front nine for a 69 and was at 2-under 140.

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Cantlay was coming off a three-putt bogey when his tee shot at the par-3 sixth - the hole with a bunker in the middle of the green - landed above the flag and to the right, and then rolled back down the slope just over the right edge of the cup.

    ''I actually missed a little to the right, but it's a bowl back there so as long as you get the number right, it should be pretty close,'' Cantlay said.

    He followed with a short iron into 5 feet for birdie, a 15-foot birdie on the next hole and then a wild drive that led to a bogey on his final hole.

    McDowell has gone 59 starts worldwide since his last victory and has fallen out of the top 200 in the world. He had missed four straight cuts dating to late last year, though he felt he was hitting it well in practice. What helped was seeing some good scores.

    ''All I'm missing is a couple little numbers and a little bit of confidence,'' McDowell said.

    Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 69 and gets to stick around for the weekend. He was at 1-over 143. Bubba Watson, who won in 2014 and 2016, has fallen out of the top 200 in the world after a two-year drought. He shot a 70 and was at 4-under 138, and then headed for the NBA All-Star weekend to play in the celebrity game.