Ochoa looking to marriage family and golf

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2009, 2:42 am

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GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Lorena Ochoa is having one of the best years of her life, and it has nothing to do with being ranked No. 1 in golf.

She’s getting married next month in her hometown, which will be a boon for Mexico’s edition of Hola magazine. Her engagement was front-page news in every paper in the country. But the pending marriage hasn’t helped the struggling LPGA, which needs a dominant star.

Ochoa’s won only three times – compared to 21 times in the previous three seasons including two majors – and didn’t contend in any of the four majors. Jiyai Shin of South Korea is on the verge of taking the Player of the Year award, which Ochoa has claimed three straight times.

Ochoa finished tied for sixth on her home course last weekend at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Michelle Wie won her first LPGA event and earned much of the attention at the Guadalajara Country Club.

“For me, personally, it’s been a better year (than the last three),” Ochoa said at her tournament. “If you are talking about the results on the golf course, for sure it’s not the best year for me. But what’s important is I am happy.”

In Mexico, she’s the country’s highest profile athlete – except for football stars Rafa Marquez of Barcelona or Cuauhtemoc Blanco of the Chicago Fire – and expected to win every tournament.

But Ochoa has been candid. She is traveling more, playing less and has more off-course obligations, which include her charity foundation. She’s also planning to move from Guadalajara to Mexico City after her marriage to Andres Conesa, the CEO of Aeromexico airline – one of her sponsors.

Conesa has three children from a previous marriage, so she’ll step into a ready-made family.

“Personally, it’s more important the things that I do outside the golf course,” she said. “And that’s been my main focus right now.”

Ochoa may follow the path of former No. 1 Annika Sorenstam, who married this year just weeks after ending her career. She gave birth to a baby girl in September.

“I will think about a family, but later on,” said Ochoa, who was often described as a “great ambassador” and an “awesome person” by other players.

Brittany Lincicome says Ochoa hasn’t changed this season, except she seems “more stretched with other things.” Lincicome said Ochoa has stopped coming to meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“She said she just did not have time,” Lincicome said. “I mean, she is still religious but she told us she had other obligations.”

With all the distractions, Ochoa’s weak spot on the course was probably her putting. She complained about it last week at her tournament, yet was seldom seen practicing on the putting green. Paula Creamer, who finished second to Wie, made a point about how much time she spends on the practice greens.

“You see it with No. 1 players in the world,” Angela Stanford said. “There are a lot more demands on their time. … I can’t imagine planning a wedding and then also being the No. 1 player in the world and carrying that with you. I’m sure it’s gotta be a lot more difficult.”

Ochoa recovered from a deep, midseason slump marked by one of the worst rounds of her career – an 8-over 79 in the second round of the U.S. Women’s Open. In early October, she won the Navistar Classic for her third victory. She shot 8-under 64 in the final round of the Mizuno Classic this month to finish second.

Ochoa’s been No. 1 for 2 1/2 years, and she’ll stay there heading into next season no matter what she does at this week’s season-ending LPGA Tour Championship in Houston. But she’s being pushed by Shin, who also leads the season money list.

Sorenstam was a commanding player, and Ochoa was expected to take over the mantle. Sorenstam’s departure may have increased the pressure on Ochoa, who has dominated at times but hasn’t quite pulled the crowds the way Wie does – particularly in the United States.

“With Annika stepping away, it was bigger than most people thought,” LPGA spokesman David Higdon said. “Lorena was caught in the middle a little bit. Annika had always been the iconic star. I think people probably didn’t realize how much Annika allowed Lorena to grow as a player.”

Higdon acknowledged the LPGA desperately needs a superstar. It’s blessed with a strong rookie class including Shin, but it needs one player to emerge.

“When you have a close race like we have right now, it’s interesting and exciting to watch,” he said. “But I always feel like when you have a dominant player like Lorena, it raises the level and everybody picks up their game.”

Juli Inkster has been in Ochoa’s shoes.

The 49-year-old Inkster has won seven majors and 31 tournaments, mixing her career with raising a family.

“It wasn’t easy, and my results showed the ups and downs,” said Inkster, who began traveling with her daughters six weeks after they were born. They’re now 19 and 15.

“I really think Lorena still has a passion for golf,” Inkster said. “I still think she wants to be No. 1. But I don’t think golf defines Lorena. Golf is what she does, not what she is.”

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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.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.