Ochoa Defends Looks to Solidify Ranking

By Associated PressMay 16, 2007, 4:00 pm
2006 Sybase ClassicCLIFTON, N.J. -- Other than being the No. 1 player in the world, Lorena Ochoa won't have an advantage as the defending champion in the Sybase Classic.
The 25-year-old Mexican star will play the 72-hole event on a new old-fashioned course starting Thursday at the Upper Montclair Country Club.
She also is facing one other interesting fact -- she hasn't won since replacing Annika Sorenstam as the No. 1 women's player a month ago.
'There is no pressure on myself. It's just about being consistent every week,' Ochoa said Wednesday after the pro-am. 'I give myself as many chances as I can to win a tournament, and I think it will happen. I never lose my concentration. The important thing is in November at the end of the year to be at the top. One week doesn't mean anything.'
Looking at recent results, Ochoa has nothing to complain about. She has tied for second, fifth and 20th in the three events since taking over at No. 1.
'I've been really feeling good the last few weeks and I feel good with my game,' Ochoa said.
This week, however, will be different. After a 17-year stay at the Wykagyl Country Club, the $1.4 million tournament was moved because of renovations being done at the New Rochelle, N.Y., club.
Wykagyl will remain as an LPGA Tour venue as the site of the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship in July.
However, Upper Montclair is not Wykagyl, a course Ochoa loved.
'There is not a great deal of difference because they are old-style, traditional golf courses,' said Beth Daniel, who played here in the Coca-Cola Classic in 1983 using wooden fairway woods. 'Wykagyl probably has a little more movement up and down than this does, so it's a little harder to walk. This course is a little tighter.'
Juli Inkster laughed when asked about what she remembered from Upper Montclair after playing here in 1984. She didn't recall a single hole during her pro-am round on Wednesday.
'In two days you can learn a golf course,' the 46-year-old said. 'Sometimes it's better not to learn everything about a golf course. It's better to know just where you need to hit it.'
The course doesn't appear to favor the long hitters, because the rough can be tough when one misses the fairway.
For the players who went out on Wednesday, they had the advantage of playing the par-72, 6,433-yard course with the wind gusting at times.
'The trees are so big sometimes you can't feel how hard that wind is blowing,' said Meg Mallon, who is playing in her fourth event since being sidelined by a foot injury. 'Over the last couple of days I've had several shots knocked down by the wind. That's local knowledge.'
Mallon was quick to add that it's hard to look past Ochoa when picking the pre-tournament favorites.
'Her game can play on any golf course,' Mallon said.
Ochoa seemingly also is the fan favorite. She was followed around the course by a group of high school girls on Wednesday, and she is bound to have a large Hispanic contingent this week.
'I'm trying to enjoy this as much as I can,' Ochoa said. 'I want to be at the No. 1 position hopefully for many years, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to make sure I maintain myself.'
Octagon Sports Marketing and Upper Montclair have a one-year agreement to play the Sybase Classic at Upper Montclair with multiple options for other years.
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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.