Ochoa Headlines Stellar Field in the Desert

By Associated PressOctober 10, 2007, 4:00 pm
  PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam won't be dueling in the desert at the Samsung World Championship this time.
 
Ochoa, who rallied from three shots back on the final day to beat Sorenstam a year ago, said she's sorry that Sorenstam isn't playing. But she supports the Swedish star's decision not to use an exemption to get into the elite event.
 
'What happened to her is very understandable, the way she got injured and tried just to slow down and not play as many tournaments,' added Ochoa, who has supplanted Sorenstam as the LPGA Tour's top player.
 
'She has been through a lot. For sure I will miss her, not only me, but a lot of players and the sponsors, and everybody would like to have her here.
 
'But she will be back. She is doing good and ready to start playing more golf more weeks in a row and get a good rhythm to show the results.'
 
Sorenstam, a five-time winner of the event, declined an offer to play in the tournament that begins Thursday at Big Horn Golf Club. After getting off to a slow start this year and missing time because of back and neck problems, she wasn't eligible for the 20-player field until the organizers changed the eligibility criteria last week.
 
They eliminated the option to exempt the U.S. Women's Amateur champion, which they hadn't exercised in nine years, and changed that spot to an exemption for an active Hall of Fame member.
 
That would have gone to Sorenstam, with the eight-time player of the year providing another headliner for the tournament.
 
But Sorenstam didn't want to take a spot that would have gone to another player, according to Mark Steinberg, her agent and head of the golf division at IMG.
 
Sarah Lee then got the final spot off the money list.
 
Ochoa applauded Sorenstam's decision.
 
'What Annika decided to do, that's something that I admire very much, I respect. She thought they were wrong to do it,' Ochoa said. 'That just shows how much class she has and how professional she is.
 
'Hopefully they will be clear with the rules, how it's going to be, the qualifications for next year and just stick with that.'
 
The field consists of the defending champion, four major champions, the leader on the Ladies European Tour money list, and one special exemption that went to Michelle Wie, with the rest coming from the money list.
 
Although Sorenstam won't be around, Ochoa will be challenged. The field includes Suzann Pettersen of Norway, who birdied the second hole of a playoff to beat Ochoa on Sunday in the Longs Drugs Challenge for her third victory of the year.
 
Ochoa, the 2006 player of the year, has won six times this year -- including the Women's British Open for her first major victory -- and earned a tour-record $3,068,421.
 
'Last year was a really special year, especially this tournament,' said the 25-year-old from Mexico by way of the University of Arizona. 'I think winning here and playing that last round with Annika and coming from behind, it was something very special and important for my career.
 
'It was a lot of fun to finish strong last year and be able to play good so far this year. The course looks in great shape and I'm very excited about starting tomorrow.'
 
Also in the field are Morgan Pressel, the Kraft Nabisco champion; Cristie Kerr, who won the U.S. Women's Open; and Ladies European Tour standout Bettina Hauert.
 
Wie made her pro debut in the 2005 Samsung, but was disqualified after the final round for signing an incorrect scorecard -- caused by an improper penalty drop -- at the end of her third round. She would have finished fourth.
 
Still only 17 and a freshman at Stanford, she has been hampered by a wrist injury and struggled this year. In seven events, she has made just two cuts and earned a total of $9,899.
 
She said earlier this week that she's healthy again.
 
'I am just so grateful for the fact that I am actually feeling really healthy right now,' Wie said. 'My wrist is feeling a lot better. I feel like I'm getting stronger. I feel healthy as a person, too, going to college, just having some fun.
 
'Just really working out and really practicing and just leaving everything behind.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

    Getty Images

    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

    Getty Images

    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

    Getty Images

    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.