Ochoa Makes it Look Easy Wins Kraft Nabisco Championship

By Associated PressApril 6, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Lorena Ochoa, the Mexican star who once struggled in the majors, now is making them look easy.
 
Ochoa continued her dominance of womens golf Sunday with a five-shot victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, giving her the last two majors by a combined nine shots. She was the only player without a bogey in the final round on a tough Mission Hills course, closing with a 5-under 67 and taking the greatest swim of her life.
 
She won by five shots over Suzann Pettersen and Annika Sorenstam, among many major champions being left behind in the massive wake of Ochoa, who has won three out of four tournaments this year by a combined 23 shots.
 
Nothing can stop her, said Se Ri Pak, who became the youngest player inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last year, a record that certainly will be broken by the 26-year-old Ochoa.
 
Ochoa, who finished at 11-under 277, never trailed under the blazing desert sun, and was threatened only briefly. But she fired off three straight birdies around the turn to build a five-shot lead, and kept it simple with pars the rest of the way.
 
This was the 20th anniversary of when Amy Alcott began the Nabisco tradition of the winner jumping into the lake surrounding the 18th green, but there has rarely been such a festive moment.
 
A mariachi band serenaded Ochoa with Canta y no llores, which translates to Sing and dont cry. Ochoa grabbed hands with her parents and sister-in-law, sprinted toward the water and jumped with both arms in the air. Her brother, Alejandro, coach Rafael Alcaron and caddie Dave Brooker leapt from the bridge. Before long, there were two dozen friends and family in the water, bobbing to the rhythm of the mariachi band and celebrating another major championship.
 
Theyre all sweet, Ochoa said.
 
Lorena is pronounced similar to la reina, Spanish for the queen, and theres no doubt who rules womens golf.
 
Ochoa became the first player since Sorenstam in 2005 to win consecutive majors, and with as much dominance as Tiger Woods enjoys on the PGA Tour, she also has raised possibilities of winning all four majors.
 
Sorenstam, who battled a stomach virus on the weekend, tried to give Ochoa a run but could never get closer than three shots. She closed with a 68 and tied for second with Pettersen, who also had a 68.
 
Even healthy, its doubtful she could have had enough to stop Ochoa.
 
Sorenstam was impressed that Ochoa would handle the pressure of playing before what amounts to a home crowd in the California desert, with Mexican flags at every turn, and with the memories of blowing good chances at Mission Hills the last two years.
 
She has come out as the leader and is staying as the leader, Sorenstam said. That takes a lot of courage, takes a lot of guys and it takes a good athlete. I could be wrong, but I think the goal for her is just to take one tournament at a time and try to win each one of them. And it turns out to be the last two majors. Im sure it wont be the last, either.
 
Ochoa earned $300,000 for her 20th victory, and is one point away from the performance criteria of the World Golf Hall of Fame. She could get that next week with a victory in Mexico, although Ochoa would have to wait until she completes 10 years on the LPGA Tour, which would be 2012.
 
Even when I was on a roll, I dont think I ever dominated like this, said Karrie Webb, who won five out of eight majors from 1999 through 2001, when she ruled the LPGA. People dont understand how hard it is to stay on top of your game like that. I did it for a few years. Annika did it for five. Tiger has done it for 12.
 
Ochoa had some nervous moments, feeling the most pressure from Hee-Won Han until a quick turnaround on the front nine.
 
A birdie-birdie start gave Ochoa a three-shot lead for the third straight day, but opportunities became scarce. Over the next five holes, she was never closer than 30 feet to the hole, and Han was taking dead aim. The South Korean made birdie from 12 feet on No. 4 and from about 8 feet on No. 6, closing to within one shot.
 
It looked as though Han would be at least tied for the lead on the seventh when Ochoa pulled her approach into the rough, leaving a fast, 40-foot chip. Han was below the cup about 25 feet away for birdie.
 
But Ochoa chipped to 4 feet and saved par, while Han three-putted for bogey. Facing a left pin and a left-to-right wind on the tough par-3 eighth, Ochoa hit a draw with a 6-iron that held nicely against the breeze and stopped 15 feet away for birdie. Han pulled her shot into the trees and took bogey. Another two-shot swing followed on the ninth, with Ochoa making a 12-foot birdie putt to build a five-shot lead.
 
Her other challengers disappeared quickly, starting with U.S. Womens Open champion Cristie Kerr. She didnt make a par until the seventh hole, and her downfall came at the par-3 fifth when she hit two balls in the water, barely found land with the third and had to make a 15-foot putt to save quadruple bogey. She shot 43 on the front nine.
 
Ochoa walked toward the 10th tee and kept her head down as she passed the 18th hole, perhaps not wanting to think ahead of a plunge into the pond that awaited. And if anyone had any questions about the outcome, Ochoa buried a 25-foot birdie on the 10th hole.
 
Shes on fire right now, Pak said.
 
All that cooled her off was a big splash on the 18th and quite a fiesta that followed.
 
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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.