Ochoa Still No 2 Eager for Top Spot
When you are No. 2, there are no private jets to fly you around the country for those Monday morning news conference to promote upcoming tournaments.
So after finishing a disappointing second in the Ginn Open at Reunion, Fla. Ochoa got on a commercial flight to rain-soaked New Jersey and landed around 1 a.m., less than 11 hours before a news conference to promote the Sybase Classic Presented by ShopRite at the Upper Montclair Country Club from May 17-20.
'I'm not No. 1 yet,' Ochoa quipped when asked about the commercial flight, which was delayed a couple of hours by a nor'easter that drenched the East Coast.
With Sorenstam expected to be sidelined for at least a month with a ruptured disk and herniated disk in her back, there is little doubt Ochoa will take over the top spot.
The 25-year-old Mexican is taking advantage of an off week on the LPGA Tour to return to Mexico to be with her family before playing in the Corona Championship in Morelia, Michoacan, in her native country.
'I have been dreaming of getting to that position for many, many years,' Ochoa said of being No. 1. 'I have been getting closer and closer with each year. Finally this year, it could happen. I am right there, close and playing good. I am going to keep it going and get to the top.'
Ochoa could have claimed the top spot by winning Sunday, but she played the final six holes in 6 over par in losing by a stroke to Brittany Lincicome.
The two women went to the final hole tied for the lead. Lincicome won when Ochoa missed a 10-foot bogey putt.
Lincicome and Ochoa hit their drives into the rough. Lincicome laid up with her second shot. Hitting next, Ochoa went for the green and found a bunker.
'I was trying to win the tournament,' Ochoa said. 'I had a chance to reach the green in two and I was going to go for it. I wanted to take advantage of that. It didn't turn out to be a good shot, and it wasn't for me.'
Ochoa insisted No. 18 wasn't the difference in the tournament. It was her play on the final six holes, and the 2006 player of the year plans to learn from it.
'When you miss the opportunity and open the door, someone else is going to be there,' Ochoa said. 'I'm OK. I'm glad this is a week off. I am glad I am going to go home and relax. I need it. I'm fine, though. I want to make sure I'm 100 percent for the tournament in Mexico. I want to win that tournament.'
Ochoa hopes Sorenstam can return soon.
'I am sure she is going to be back because she is not done yet,' said Ochoa, who leads the LPGA in earnings, scoring average, birdies, top 10 finishes and sand saves this year. 'She wants to win and she is very competitive. I guess I should just take this as an opportunity to keep playing good and try to use this as an advantage.'
Ochoa, who won six times on tour last year, would like to win a couple of times in the four events before the Sybase, where she is the defending champion.
The tournament was moved from Wykagyl Country Club in the New York suburbs to the Upper Montclair course late last year because of work being done at Wykagyl.
'I like traditional golf courses, and this is one of them with high trees, tight fairways, rough,' said Ochoa, who has won once this year.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
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
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
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.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
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.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
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.