Ochoa Wins Wegmans in a Playoff

By Associated PressJune 24, 2007, 4:00 pm
LPGA logo for LeaderboardsPITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Lorena Ochoa vanquished the playoff demons. Now the world's No. 1 player is aiming for her first major title.
 
Ochoa erased a three-shot deficit over the last two regulation holes Sunday and then beat South Korean rookie In-Kyung Kim in a playoff to capture the Wegmans LPGA for the second time in three years.
 
The 25-year-old Mexican star closed with a 1-over-par 73 for an 8-under 280 total on the Locust Hill course and won with a par on the second playoff hole. She eagled the par-5 17th and got even on the last hole when Kim missed a 4-foot putt for par.
 
'It was a really good thing -- not the beginning of the day but the end of the day,' Ochoa said. 'I just never lost my hope.'
 
It was her first playoff victory in five attempts, and the first playoff finish at this tournament in suburban Rochester since Patty Sheehan defeated Ayako Okamoto in 1989.
 
'This is really a good turning point winning a playoff,' Ochoa said, adding that 'I like my chances for next week' at the U.S. Women's Open.
 
Ochoa earned $270,000 to extend her lead on the money list to $1.52 million. That's almost a half-million dollars more than her nearest rival, Suzann Pettersen of Norway.
 
The 19-year-old Kim, who closed with a 72, has made steady progress this year. Her previous best finish was a tie for fourth at last month's Corning Classic. She missed the cut in four of her first six outings but stayed through the weekend in the past six, tying for 21st at the LPGA Championship two weeks ago.
 
'I can cry right now but I'm not going to cry for this,' Kim said. 'I played really tight with the No. 1 player and I'll take that experience. Next time I'm never going to let it go.'
 
South Korean compatriot Mi Hyun Kim, an eight-time tour winner, drove a shot behind trees to finish with a bogey and drop into third place at 7 under. She was one shot better than Cristi Kerr (71), a nine-time winner who led after the opening round.
 
Tied for fifth were Lindsey Wright (71) and defending champion Jeong Jang of South Korea, who closed with a 68.
 
After three rounds, Ochoa led In-Kyung Kim by one shot. She missed a half-dozen makable putts on the front nine, lipping out three times, and her bunker shot on No. 10 rolled 35 feet past the hole for a bogey that dropped her back into a tie.
 
She missed from 12 feet for bogey on No. 12, birdied the next hole and missed from 5 feet for a bogey on No. 14. She then sank a 12-foot putt for eagle on No. 17 and tied it with a par on the last hole when Kim chipped from behind the green and then lipped out.
 
Both players made par on the first playoff hole. After wayward drives on the next hole -- the par-4 10th -- Ochoa sank a 3-foot par putt while Kim missed from 15 feet away.
 
Early this month, Ochoa let a two-shot lead slip away over the final two holes at the Ginn Tribute, handing Nicole Castrale her first LPGA Tour victory in a playoff.
 
Ochoa was runner-up here in 2003 and won in 2005 when she birdied six of the last seven holes to beat Paula Creamer by four strokes.
 
In her fifth year on tour, Ochoa won the Safeway International in March and the Sybase Classic in May, was the runner-up three times, and placed in the top 10 on five other occasions. She has yet to win a major.
 
Ochoa topped the 2006 money list with $2.59 million, just $4,632 more than Sweden's Annika Sorenstam. For the previous 11 years, either Sorenstam or Karrie Webb of Australia had ranked No. 1 in official earnings.
 
The $1.8 million tournament, sandwiched between two majors, drew 47 of the top 50 money winners. One absentee was Sorenstam, who opens her defense of the U.S. Women's Open on Thursday at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C.
 
Related Links:
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.