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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    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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    Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

    Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

    ''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

    It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    ''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

    Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

    ''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

    After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

    ''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

    He's making his first start in the event.

    ''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

    Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

    ''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

    Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

    ''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

    The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

    ''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

    Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

    ''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

    Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

    John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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    Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

    He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

    How rare is his missing the cut there?

    The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

    The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

    Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

    Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.