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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    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


    Masters victory


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    Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


    Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

    Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

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    Man of the people


    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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    Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


    Growing family

    Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

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    Departure from TaylorMade


    Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


    Squashed beef with Paddy

    Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

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    Victory at Valderrama


    Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm