Ochoa Focused Ready to Capture a Major

By Associated PressJune 6, 2007, 4:00 pm
McDonalds LPGAHARVE DE GRACE, Md. -- Lorena Ochoa has spent her life scaling great heights, as a 12-year-old climbing Pico de Orizaba in her native Mexico, and in her five years on the LPGA Tour toppling Annika Sorenstam as the No. 1 player.
 
The one mountain that awaits is one she figured to have reached already.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie has her wrist examined during Wednesday's practice round. (Getty Images)
Ochoa has done everything but win a major championship, and her next chance starts Thursday at the LPGA Championship.
 
'Am I tired of the question? No, no,' she said with a laugh. 'My dad is also asking me that. No, it's just a matter of time. I've been good not to really stress too much and put a lot of pressure on me from what the press says, or what the people say outside, the fans or the players. I think I have a good chance this week. I'm going to try really hard. I'm ready. And hopefully, this is it.'
 
No one ever said winning a major would be easy.
 
Considering all she has done the last few years, no one guessed it would take Ochoa this long.
 
'I've played with Lorena the first two rounds of the last two tournaments, and she finished first and second,' Kraft Nabisco champion Morgan Pressel said. 'That's not too shabby. It's impressive to watch her play and watch her hit the ball so well. She grinds it out, and I'm sure she wants to win -- win this week, win a major.'
 
It hasn't been for lack of an opportunity.
 
Ochoa put together a dazzling charge at Cherry Hills two years ago in the U.S. Women's Open until she popped up a 3-wood and put it into the water on the final hole, leading to a quadruple bogey.
 
Then came the Kraft Nabisco Championship a year later, when she blew a three-shot lead over Michelle Wie in the final round, made an eagle on the 18th hole to get into a playoff and lost to Karrie Webb. Ochoa wasted another good chance this spring at the Nabisco until a quadruple-bogey 7 on the 17th hole of the third round took her out of the mix.
 
The memories won't go away, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
 
She is determined to learn from her mistakes, and for the most part, she has done that.
 
After blowing a big lead to Sorenstam in Phoenix, she rallied to beat her in a pivotal showdown at the Samsung World Championship that enabled Ochoa to sweep all the LPGA awards last season.
 
But while she already has won twice on the LPGA Tour this year, Ochoa arrived at Bulle Rock with more skepticism about her ability to close out tournaments.
 
A week ago at the Ginn Tribute, she squandered a three-shot lead against unheralded Nicole Castrale, then lost in a playoff when Ochoa hooked her tee shot into a hazard. She fell apart down the stretch at the wind-blown Ginn Open, allowing Brittany Lincicome to win. And at the Corona Championship in Mexico, she couldn't catch untested Silvia Cavalleri.
 
That's hardly what anyone expects from the No. 1 player in the world.
 
Ochoa, however, doesn't seem rattled.
 
'I just see the big picture, and give myself so many chances to win tournaments and to be close and to be at the top,' Ochoa said. 'Those are really good things. It hurts that I didn't win, but those are the things I need to work on.'
 
Ochoa was among a dozen players who had a chance at Bulle Rock last year, which resembled a demolition derby until Se Ri Pak emerged the winner with one of the most stunning shots of the year. Pak got into a playoff with Webb, popped up her tee shot on the 18th hole, then hit a hybrid 4-iron that stopped 2 inches from the cup for a tap-in victory that gave her a fifth major championship.
 
'It's something I will never forget about,' Pak said.
 
More history awaits this week no matter what she shoots. By finishing her first round Thursday, Pak will have played 10 tournaments to complete her 10th year on the LPGA Tour, the final requirement for the World Golf Hall of Fame.
 
Her induction will be in November.
 
'This is the first time I feel nervous about something I'm going through,' Pak said.
 
The other question is whether Wie will even finish her first round. The 17-year-old from Honolulu is coping with an injured wrist and mounting criticism for her conduct, after pulling out with two holes left in her first round at the Ginn Tribute last week when she already was 14 over par. Had she finished at 16-over 88, by rule she would have been banned from the LPGA Tour the rest of the year.
 
Wie was at Bulle Rock early Wednesday morning, and working on her putting late in the afternoon.
 
Sorenstam held nothing back in her criticism of Wie withdrawing from the tournament where Sorenstam was the host. She was mainly perturbed that the teenager was seen at Bulle Rock two days later hitting balls, and said that showed lack of respect and class.
 
Most other LPGA Tour supported Sorenstam's criticism. And they feared a circus atmosphere at the second major of the year.
 
Ochoa wasn't interested in that conversation.
 
'I really don't have any opinion,' she said. 'I hope she's doing OK and I hope her wrist is fine, and that if she plays this week, she completes the round and really shows how she's playing.'
 
Ochoa wants to finish more than just a round of golf. She wants to finish off a major, the one item missing from her credentials. Ochoa set big goals when she turned pro, such as winning a major and rising to No. 1 in the world.
 
She always figured the major would come first.
 
'You have in your head winning tournaments, and especially winning majors,' she said. 'But for sure, you never know how it's going to happen, and when it's going to happen.'
 
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