Ochoa Back In Comfortable Territory

By Associated PressMarch 26, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 Safeway International pres by CocaColaSUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN, Ariz. -- Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club is no ordinary LPGA Tour stop for the worlds top-ranked female player.
 
This is where Lorena Ochoa learned how to cope with a horrific collapse, and also where she heard adoring chants of Viva, Lorena! from Hispanic groundskeepers after a rousing comeback victory.
 
This, the 26-year-old from Mexico said, is where she grew up as a golfer.
 
Its a place that has built me up, Ochoa said Wednesday as she prepared to defend her Safeway International title.
 
The tournament begins Thursday.
 
With Safeway ending its sponsorship of the event after this year, it could be the last LPGA Tour stop in the desert following a 26-year run. The LPGA Tour pulled out of Tucson several years ago.
 
Three years ago in this tournament, Ochoa blew a four-shot lead with three holes left and lost in a playoff to Annika Sorenstam.
 
But Ochoa returned last spring and chased down Norways Suzann Pettersen with four birdies in the final three holes, a victory that springboarded her to the No. 1 ranking last April.
 
She has held the spot the last 11 months and won 15 times since 2006, including an 11-shot victory last month in Singapore in the HSBC Womens Champions.
 
I learned to lose the hard way here but I was able to win last year, she said. Sometimes its tough, but you always learn a lot with the bad times. I am more comfortable now playing on Sunday, under pressure. I like that. Its just been a growing experience. It always helps.
 
With the Kraft Nabisco, the first major championship of the year, a week away, the field is loaded with stars taking another shot at Ochoa.
 
They include Sorenstam, who won the SBS Open last month and leads the 2008 money list, and Paula Creamer, the 21-year-old who won the Fields Open last month and is ranked No. 4 in the world.
 
Lorena is playing as good as Tiger Woods now, said Cristie Kerr, 10th on the money list. As good as we are, you marvel at how good and talented she is.
 
Ochoa knows she has a target on her back.
 
Its OK, she said. I was behind before, and its the way life and the sport is. I know there are so many good players behind me trying to get me, but I like where I am and Im going to make sure I stay in that position.
 
The two-time Rolex Player of the Year said staying on top motivates her.
 
I think its not a pressure that Im not able to sleep. Its a challenge. Ochoa said. Its something I dream about every day. It took me a long time to get here. It feels right. Im going to enjoy my moment as much as I can.
 
She feels at home in these surroundings. Ochoa played at the University of Arizona in Tucson and has a huge Hispanic following in the area.
 
I feel very comfortable and I have a lot of fans, she said. They keep coming every year. I always feel that support and love here. I want to say hello to the fans. As well as many Mexicans. Most of the drive from the border or live here in the desert and it really feels good to see the Mexican flag and them cheering for me.
 
She made more fans Wednesday. Before the pro-am, she tracked down the ground crew and thanked them for the pristine shape the course is in.
 
Walking on that first fairway, she said, you feel like youre floating.
 
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.