Ochoa Arrival Coincides with Annika Departure

By Associated PressJune 4, 2008, 4:00 pm
McDonalds LPGAHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. -- The picture has a prominent spot in the home of Lorena Ochoa, kept in the TV room alongside some of the trophies she has collected during a rapid rise to the No. 1 spot in womens golf.
As a sophomore at Arizona, Ochoa was low amateur at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She was invited to the trophy presentation on the 18th green along with the winner'Annika Sorenstam'and asked the Swede to pose with the entire Ochoa clan.
Very nervous, Ochoa said, describing her first meeting with the player she wanted to follow. With Annika, the way she is sometimes shy in a way, shes always been very nice to me, and she always jokes with my dad. They are very friendly to each other, and from there, we just started a relationship. And its been a very special one.
Their relationship now is more about coming and going.
Ochoa has emerged as the most dynamic player on the LPGA Tour, a shift that started when she won a back-nine duel against Sorenstam at the 2006 Samsung World Championship.
The 26-year-old from Mexico is the favorite this week at the McDonalds LPGA Championship, where she will try to become only the fourth woman to win three straight majors. She already has six victories this year, twice as many as Sorenstam.
I feel like my game is solid and where I want it to be, she said.
Sorenstam is on her way out.
She announced three weeks ago at the Sybase Classic'a tournament Ochoa won ' that this would be her final year on the LPGA Tour. Sorenstam has 72 career victories, including 10 majors, and she would like nothing more than to leave on top.
The 37-year-old does not consider this a sentimental farewell tour.
It was never meant to be that way, Sorenstam said. Im focusing on playing golf. I want to finish well, and I have a chance to win the money list, player of the year. So thats kind of what my focus is, and nothing else.
Winning those awards one last time'she already has won player of the year a record eight times'means toppling Ochoa, which is a tall order these days. Ochoa has finished out of the top 10 only once this year in nine starts, and she is determined to do what Sorenstam never could'win all four majors in the same year.
I think its something very special, she said of the Grand Slam.
Ochoa loves the competition. Aside from winning majors at the Womens British Open and the Kraft Nabisco, one of her greatest thrills was playing in the final group with Sorenstam at Big Horn in late 2006, turning a three-shot deficit into a two-shot victory.
Equally strong are memories of Sorenstam throughout her journey to the top.
Sorenstam first found stardom at Arizona a decade earlier, winning the NCAA title as a freshman and the Pac-10 title the next year before leaving. Ochoa learned all about her when she arrived in Tucson, barely able to speak English but understanding a college record that translates into any language.
She studied her on the range and inside the ropes. She asked questions.
I wanted to be like her, Ochoa said. I wanted to follow her steps. When I turned professional, I gave her a phone call to see the things I needed to do, give me advice, and she was very helpful.
Ochoa called Sorenstams caddie when she was looking for a new looper.
Sentiments aside, both are here to win.
Its competition. It separates the things that you do, Ochoa said. But I can only say thank you to all of the things she gave me. I learned a lot from her.
Sorenstam holds the LPGA record by winning the same major three straight years, the last of those LPGA Championship titles coming in 2005 when it moved to Bulle Rock for the first time.
It is a big course that favors both of them, especially this year. A wet spring made the grass lush, and rain the last two days have made the 6,641-yard course even longer. The closing hole, with water hugging the left side of the green, now measures 422 yards.
Thats not likely to help Morgan Pressel, who is paired with Ochoa the first two rounds for the second straight time in a major, of Paula Creamer, who is still trying to win her first major.
The golf course is definitely soft, Creamer said. The rough is very thick. Its very punishing if you miss the fairway. They moved some tees back, which makes it a little bit more difficult. Hopefully, we dont get too much rain in the next couple of days so it can dry out.
Sorenstam has not won a major since the 2006 U.S. Womens Open at Newport, but when someone suggested it would be sweet to leave the LPGA Tour with one or two more, she quickly replied, Or three? Yeah, that would be great.
She has no regrets about leaving golf, with hopes of starting a family and building a business. And it makes it easier when Ochoa, who is ruthless on the course and respectful off it, is leading the way.
I do feel a special bond with her, Sorenstam said. I respect her tremendously, and its been a lot of fun to see her grow. She has developed a lot as a person and as a player, and shes a great asset to the tour. Thats another reason why I feel like my timing of stepping away is good. The tour is in great hands.
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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.