Ochoa in the Mix Early at Kraft Nabisco - COPIED

By Associated PressApril 4, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Lorena Ochoa figured anything around par is good enough at a major. It took four straight birdies to get into the mix Thursday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
 
Starting with a sand wedge to 2 feet on the 18th hole that she called her best of the day, Ochoa zoomed up the leaderboard with a string of birdies around the turn and settled for an opening round of 4-under 68, leaving her one shot behind Karen Stupples.
 
It was important to get a couple of birdies early in the round and get some momentum, Ochoa said.
 
Ochoa is trying to become the first woman since Annika Sorenstam in 2005 to win consecutive majors, having won her first last summer at St. Andrews in the Womens British Open. And while a three-putt bogey from the fringe and over severe humps on the par-3 eighth kept her from a share of the lead, Ochoa showed why she is such an overwhelming favorite.
 
Playing with defending champion Morgan Pressel, she powered one tee shot after another down the middle of the fairway, well past trouble and usually 40 yards by Pressel. It finally paid off with the four straight birdies, three from inside 6 feet.
 
Stupples, who won the Womens British Open in 2004 and is getting back into the swing after giving birth to her first child last year, was the first to play and made it around Mission Hills without a bogey for 67.
 
Ai Miyazato of Japan birdied her last hole for a 68 to join Ochoa. Natalie Gulbis was among those at 69, while UCLA freshman Maria Jose Uribe was the low amateur and in a group at 70 that included Liselotte Neumann.
 
Annika Sorenstam tried to stay with the leaders, but she failed to take advantage of the par 5s and had to settle for a 71. It was her 15th consecutive round under par this year, but left her trailing Ochoa, the games most dynamic player.
 
Its a long way to go, Sorenstam said. You just have to go out and battle it day by day, stroke by stroke, and take it as it comes.
 
Laura Davies lost her battle on one hole.
 
Needing only this major to complete the career Grand Slam and qualify for the World Golf Hall of Fame, the big hitter from England took a 10 on the 18th hole as she was making the turn.
 
Davies hit her third shot into the water. After taking a penalty drop and hitting her fifth over the green, she chipped through the green and back into the water. Her eighth shot spun back off the green and nearly into the water, and she got up-and-down to spare herself an even higher number. Davies wound up with a 76.
 
I walk off with a 10 and the tournament is over for me, she said. Its sickening.
 
Under bright sunshine and a strong wind that was still manageable, Stupples found her confidence early by finding the fairways, and saving par the one time she strayed. She picked up easy birdies on two of the par 5s, then capped off her round with a 6-iron on the par-3 17th to within 6 feet.
 
It was a good sign that her strength is back nearly a year after her son, Logan, was born.
 
Up until about a month ago, I hadnt really regained my full strength, she said. All of a sudden, it came back almost overnight. And that was really good to see, that I was able to get through the ball.
 
No one is getting through the ball quite like Ochoa.
 
She worked hard on her putting during the offseason, but the biggest change appears to be her distance. Ochoa has tremendous speed, especially with her hips and wrists, and she powered her driver throughout the round. The trick was getting the big drives to pay off it birdies, and her burst began with a sand wedge from 70 yards.
 
It was downwind, and I managed to control it, and it rolled back and I made birdie, Ochoa said. And with the gallery, that always feels good.
 
Even more inspiring was a poster attached to the back of the grandstand on the first tee that said: Mission Hills Golf Course Staff Supports Lorena.
 
It was signed by the maintenance crew at Mission Hills, nearly all of them Mexican. Ochoa saw it from the putting green, and it wasnt the first time. She visited the Mexican crew, as she often does as tournaments in California and Arizona, on Wednesday and they presented her with the poster.
 
Pressels streak without a bogey at Mission Hills ended at 27 holes when she failed to save par from behind the 13th green, her fourth of the day. She did well to post a 71, but was equally frustrated at only hitting five greens in regulation.
 
I know how to play'fairways and greens, Pressel said. I just didnt hit the green today. But you look back at the end of the day, and its still a major championship. And Im right in there.
 
So was Sorenstam, only four out of the lead, and even Ochoa would concede that. She was asked if she stills looks to see where Sorenstam is on the leaderboard, even though Ochoa is the name most feared these days.
 
All the time, Ochoa said. She is a player to watch. She is so good and so consistent and she likes to win. That always keeps me alert and motivated and know where I stand.
 
Divots
 
University of Kentucky junior Mallory Blackwelder shot a 71. Her mother, Myra, recently became the Wildcats womens golf coach. Her father, Worth, is the caddie for Juli Inkster. Dorothy Delasin was disqualified for taking an incorrect penalty drop on the 18th hole, which could not be rectified after she teed off on the next hole. Nicole Perot was not allowed to play for missing her pro-am on Wednesday. There are two pro-ams at the LPGAs first major.
 
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.