Ochoa Eyes First Major No 1 Spot in World

By Associated PressMarch 28, 2007, 4:00 pm
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Lorena Ochoa finds inspiration just about everywhere she turns in the California desert.
 
She never came closer to winning a major than one year ago in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. The Mexican star tied an LPGA major record with a 62 in the opening round, only to carelessly throw away shots over the weekend. And despite a birdie-par-eagle finish to force a playoff, she left Mission Hills empty after losing to Karrie Webb in a playoff.
 
Lorena Ochoa
Lorena Ochoa is coming off her first win of the season last week at the Safeway. (WireImage)
'I didn't like the feeling of losing, kind of giving the tournament away after a great first round,' she said.
 
But the Coachella Valley is filled with positive vibes, too, for it was only five months ago at Bighorn that Ochoa produced perhaps her most significant victory to date.
 
She trailed Annika Sorenstam by three shots going into the final round of the Samsung World Championship on a course where Sorenstam had never lost and was going after a record sixth victory. Despite such daunting odds, the fearless Ochoa fired at flags and closed with a 7-under 65 to win by two.
 
It sent Ochoa on her way to winning LPGA player of the year and the money title, which had belonged to Sorenstam the last five years. And it allowed her to truly believe that being No. 1 in the world was only a matter of time.
 
Perhaps the time is now.
 
Ochoa can move to No. 1 in the women's world ranking and fill the only hole in her credentials with a victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, which starts Thursday at Mission Hills.
 
There is little to suggest she is not the favorite.
 
She is coming off a six-victory season that allowed her to sweep all the major awards. And she is coming off a victory last week against a strong field outside Phoenix, where she birdied four of the last five holes.
 
'I would say Lorena is playing very, very well,' Sorenstam said. 'Of course, I'm looking at the rankings the LPGA official money list. And so far, and right now, she's playing some superb golf. So I'm not surprised that the gap is smaller and smaller.'
 
The Kraft Nabisco is played on the same course every year, and the 101 players make it the smallest field among LPGA majors. It does not included Wie, who is recovering from a wrist injury.
 
In her fifth year on tour, about the only thing the 25-year-old Ochoa has not achieved is winning a major.
 
Her first decent chance came two years at Cherry Hills, a grueling test for the 2005 U.S. Women's Open. Ochoa was among the early starters and was poised to post a score of 3 over par -- the winning score that day -- until she hooked her tee shot on the 18th hole into the water and stumbled to a quadruple bogey.
 
Then came last year.
 
After opening with a 62, Ochoa led by at least three shots the rest of the week until her lead slipped away, first to Hawaii teenager Michelle Wie, then to Webb, who holed a pitching wedge from 116 yards on the final hole for eagle.
 
Unwilling to go down without a fight, Ochoa made birdie on the 16th, then hit 5-wood over the pond fronting the 18th green to 6 feet for an eagle to force a playoff. Webb won on the first extra hole.
 
'I was playing in the last group, a lot of pressure going on,' Ochoa said. 'And especially with Michelle Wie playing so good, the crowd was cheering so hard for her. And all of a sudden, Karrie made an eagle. There are things you cannot control.'
 
Ochoa was more discouraged by how she played in the third round, when she had a chance to put it away.
 
But the week wasn't a total loss.
 
'They made me a better player,' she said. 'I know how much to trust yourself and to be good under pressure, manage the lead, a lot of emotions going on. It really taught me and helped me to be a more consistent player throughout the 2006 season.'
 
What would winning a major mean? For starters, a big party in Mexico.
 
It was a return for Webb, who dominated the LPGA seven years ago until losing confidence as she rebuilt her swing. Webb lost in a playoff at the LPGA Championship to Se Ri Pak and she wound up with four victories and second on the money list.
 
Webb, with seven majors, believes it won't be long before Ochoa picks up her first.
 
'What did she shoot, 10 under the first round? Really, it was her tournament to win after that and she didn't get the job done,' Webb said. 'I think she really learned from that because later in the year, she had a couple of tournaments where she had leads and won. And then at Samsung, she beat Annika down the stretch.'
 
Sorenstam, however, is still No. 1 in the world ranking. But instead of talk about a Grand Slam, the questions focus on how much longer the Swede can stay on top.
 
She is 36, branching out into business, thinking more about starting a family.
 
And yet a part of Sorenstam isn't willing to let go that easily. She hasn't been seriously challenged by anyone since Pak won the '02 LPGA Championship, and Sorenstam blew her away the rest of the season, then left everyone else in her wake the next three years.
 
But she won only three times last year, and in her first tournament this season, she lost a two-shot lead with three holes to play against unheralded Meghan Francella in Mexico.
 
'I'm happy to be back this year with a better swing, and just feeling that I have the game again,' Sorenstam said. 'I think if I just perform, things will fall into place, the right place. And there's nothing really I can control other than that.'
 
Related Links:
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    Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

    Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

    The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...


    2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia


    And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

    Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

    He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

    Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

    Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

    Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

    Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

    Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

    Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title


    Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

    Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

    Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open


    Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

    Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

    Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59


    Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

    Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63


    Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

    Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut


    Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

    Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club


    Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

    Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth


    The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ


    Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year


    And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

    Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win


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    Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

    Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

    Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

    By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

    The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

    They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

    Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

    Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

    Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

    ''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

    The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

    In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

    Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.