The Ascendancy Of Ochoa

By Brian HewittApril 6, 2008, 4:00 pm
RANCHO MIRAGE, Ca. -- The separation is officially defined.
 
Prior to this week, Mexicos Lorena Ochoa clearly stood taller than anyone else in womens golf. Now she is head shoulders above the competition.
 
Sunday at the Kraft Nabisco turned out to be little more than a victory lap for the best female player in the world. Her final round 67 produced a 5-shot victory over runners-up Annika Sorenstam and Suzann Pettersen.
 
Now much of the forward spin will focus on the years three remaining womens major championships. Next up is the McDonalds LPGA in June at Bulle Rock in Maryland. Ochoa hasnt won there but she did shoot 69-69 on the weekend last year to tie for sixth.
 
The U.S. Womens Open gets to historic Interlachen later that month. And former Interlachen club president Jim Freeman said Sunday, The strengths of Lorena Ochoas game are exactly what our golf course rewards.
 
Interlachen, where Bobby Jones won the U.S. Open in his Grand Slam year, will play to a par of 72 with four par 5s. Freeman said Ochoa should be able to reach three of them in two under most conditions.
 
Finally in early August the women close out their major run at the RICOH Womens British Open at Sunningdale in England. The first two holes there are par 5s. Ochoa will arrive as the defending champion. Enough said.
 
I think, said Sorenstam when asked if Ochoa has the game to win the Grand Slam, its possible.
 
Meanwhile back at Mission Hills Country Club, Ochoa was on her game right from the start Sunday playing in the final group with Cristie Kerr and Hee-Won Han.
 
Ochoa and Kerr had dueled in the final group at last years U.S. Womens Open staged at Pine Needles. That day began with Kerr leading by a shot. It ended with Kerr winning the championship'and her first major'by two over Ochoa and Angela Park, who tied for second.
 
This time the final threesome was Ochoa, Kerr and South Korean. Ochoas margin at the outset over Han was one and it was two over Kerr, who had fired the same number (66) in the third round here that she did at Pine Needles last June.
 
Kerr wears her competitiveness on her sleeve more than Ochoa. And there was just a slight chill in the air at the first tee box area Sunday as group waited for the signal to play. Ochoa and Han mostly listened to small talk from Ochoas caddie, Dave Brookman. Kerr stood apart and kept her final pre-round thoughts to herself.
 
Ochoa quickly stretched her lead over Kerr to four shots when a perfect short iron to a back right pin left a straight-uphill 9-footer that she poured in the hole for a birdie 3. Kerr, meanwhile, dumped her second into a bunker, left her third short of the putting surface and needed a testy 5-footer to save bogey.
 
Kerr bounced back with a 6-footer for birdie on the par 5 second after a tidy approach. Ochoa outdid her with a drive, a hybrid and two putts.
 
As starts go, it couldnt have been more perfect for Ochoa and, for that matter, the LPGA. The organization must remain publicly impartial. But youd be hard-pressed to find anyone in the top circles of womens golf who wouldnt welcome a run, by Ochoa, at the never-before-achieved female Grand Slam.
 
For its part, the sports media has become increasingly fascinated with hot topics. And you can be sure if heavily-favored Tiger Woods beats the field at next weeks Masters, there will be viewer and reader polls and pundit debates on which player'Ochoa or Woods'is more likely to win their respective calendar Slams in 2008. This is a comparison that will only serve to advance the already-rising public visibility of the womens game.
 
Ochoa insists she is more in the moment. And at Kraft Nabisco this week there was good reason. Two years ago she blazed to an opening 62 but lost Sunday in a playoff to Karrie Webb. Last year she had a piece of the 36-hole lead at this event but melted down late Saturday with a quadruple bogey 7 that included a greenside whiff, on the par 3 17th hole.
 
Friday she led by three shots early on her final nine only to stumble into a 36-hole tie with Heather Young. Saturday it was dj vu all over again. Again she led by three after birdies on 10, 11 and 12. But three-putts on 15 and 17 allowed Han to draw within one after 54 holes.
 
I am not one to be upset, Ochoa said before leaving the grounds at Mission Hills late Saturday. I am really positivethat I have a chance to win a major, and thats what I am going to do, get ready for tomorrow.
 
Let the record show she was ready. Let the record show the separation is officially defined.
 

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    Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

    Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

    The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...


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    And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

    Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

    He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

    Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

    Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

    Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

    Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

    Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

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    Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

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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.