Ochoa Coronation Inches Closer

By Brian HewittMarch 30, 2007, 4:00 pm
RANCHO MIRAGE, Ca. -- There is a fountain in Guadalajara, Mexico where the locals celebrate on special occasions. It is to be found in a part of town called La Minerva. And they are poised there this weekend to become festive.
 
This is because Guadalajaras favorite daughter, Lorena Ochoa, is poised to become the No. 1 ranked woman golfer in the world.
 
When the soccer team wins they celebrate at La Minerva, Ochoa explained. They drink and run and listen to music, mariachi bands, and they have promised me they will do that. Well see.
 
We will see, indeed.
 
When Ochoa got off the golf course Friday at Mission Hills Country Club, she found herself tied for the lead with Paula Creamer in the Kraft Nabisco Championship at 4 under par.
 
If Ochoa is still leading, by herself, at the end of play Sunday, she will pass Annika Sorenstam at the top of the rankings and she will have won her first major championship.
 
Nothing in golf is predestined. But everybody here is ready for the coronation. The crowds around the golf course bathe Ochoa in warm applause wherever she goes. When her name comes up in conversation now all you have to do is say Lorena and people know about whom you are talking.
 
Every time Ochoa appears in the press room, she looks out at reporters and, before taking their questions, greets them with a hello. It is at once so winning, so natural and so out of the ordinary in that setting that even the most grizzled pressmen leave shaking their heads at her politesse.
 
Ochoa, who unseated Sorenstam as the LPGAs Player of the Year in 2006, even wears her confidence well. Ive been waiting five years, she said about her ascendancy. To wait three or four more weeks is no problem.
 
Her round Friday began on the 10th hole and after a birdie on No. 11 she dropped back to one under following a bogey on 13 and a double bogey on 15.
 
Her driver was giving her fits. And it was producing army golf. One left, one right, she said.
 
But patience, prudence and skill helped her birdie the 17th and 18th. The latter occurred when she cleared the water on the signature par 5 hole with a 5-wood second and got up and down for a four.
 
Im in a good position, Lorena said. Actually its even better than the scoreboard indicates. Mission Hills is playing more than 100 yards longer this year than it did in 2006. And this benefits the longer hitters, of which Ochoa is one.
 
One or 2 under a day on Saturday and Sunday, Ochoa said, should be pretty good. The idea of anybody getting to double figures under par is, she said, is unlikely.
 
Se Ri Pak, who will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame later this year, is hanging around the first page of the leaderboard. And Paula Creamer, one of the few young Americans playing well at the moment, made a nice move on the eve of the weekend with a Friday 67 that left her tied with Ochoa.
 
For her part, Sorenstam wasnt able to rally from a disappointing 75 on Thursday. After 36 holes she is 11 shots off the lead.
 
Ochoas grasp of English has grown in leaps and bounds since she showed up on the campus of the University of Arizona as a freshman in 2000. For a while the only adjective she was comfortable with in English was super. Then she got on a happy kick.
 
I need to get better, she said Friday.
 
But all that wont really matter if she wins Sunday. She will be on top of her world. The tequila will be flowing freely at La Minerva. And Ochoa will be super happy.
 
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.