A Soft Spot for Lorena
I remember vividly a scene earlier this year that sums up the essence of Lorena. It was at a tournament in Orlando on a Wednesday and the LPGA had scheduled a pre-tournament interview for Lorena. There were perhaps 10 writers covering the event that day, though most were out on the course engaged in some other activity.
So Lorena came into the media room, and only three journalists were present to question her. I was one ' out of kindness I attended even though my story that day was on Annika Sorenstam, I believe. The moderator opened the floor to questions ' and there were none!
We all sat there in embarrassed silence. My questions were all for Annika. Eventually we came up with two or three for Lorena. But the sight of Lorena still sitting on the edge of her chair, painstakingly answering each in her delightful Spanish-tinted brogue, regardless of how trivial ' it was a heart-warming moment that just showed how much of a lady she really is.
A prima donna would have walked out in a huff. But no, not this woman.
Lorena Ochoa - I can't say enough good things about her, said Cristi Kerr. First of all, shes the absolute nicest person on the face of the earth.
What a talent. She has had the best year in golf that we've seen in a very, very long time, and when all of the other top players are playing very well. Player of the Year for her, I don't think there is anybody that deserves it more than her. Incredibly talented, and I just think the world of her.
So this is not just about Lorenas golfing skills, though this year she has responded to the demands of fame by winning six times. This is about Lorena Ochoa the person, the esteem she is held by her fellow players, AND her skills as a golfer.
Annika was dethroned this year by Ochoa in the race for Player of the Year, and that is by no means a small accomplishment. Sorenstam had won the Player of the Year a record eight times, including the last six in succession. But - Ochoa still considers Annika the No. 1 female golfer in the world, despite the fact that Lorena has a big edge this year in victories.
No, no, no - that will never change, you know, she protested when it was suggested that maybe she, Ochoa, had replaced Sorenstam at the top.
I respect Annika more than anybody. I admire her a lot. Every time I see her, or I'm around her, I try to learn the most I can. She is the top of the top.
Lorena was raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, by parents of privilege. She herself doesnt categorize the family as wealthy, though she did live adjacent to a golf course. Her father is in real estate, her mother an abstract artist. Lorena was exposed to sports of all kinds as a kid' she even joined brother Alejandro in climbing a couple of mountains at the age of 11 and 12. But as a teenager she settled quickly into golf at the country club.
And particularly appealing is her practice of seeking out those of Mexican heritage on the golf courses where there is a tournament. She treated them to breakfast at an event in Arizona earlier this year. At the Takefuji Classic, Latino workers building a condominium abutting the course hung a banner wishing Lorena Buena Suerte, or good luck. She walked across the fairway to shake hands with them. She visited the maintenance-shed lunchroom at the Safeway International in Phoenix last year and got a standing ovation from the crew.
'I like to pay them back a little bit,' Ochoa said. 'I like to thank them.'
And on Wednesday of last week, on her 25th birthday, about 30 of the course-maintenance workers attempted to reciprocate at the ADT Championship in West Palm Beach, Fla. They serenaded Lorena in Spanish, presenting her with a birthday cake.
I'm very proud to be Mexican, said Lorena, and every time I see some Mexicans on the course - it could be the workers, or Mexicans that live here. I love seeing the Mexican flag and (seeing them) cheering for me. It gives me extra motivation. It makes me want to do things better and play good for them, so they can enjoy and see me play good.
You know, I'm always very thankful for them to come and support me. Every time I have a chance, when I see them, I go and say hi to them and thank them for coming.
Annika says she is impressed by all things Lorena. She has just blossomed to become a great player It's fun to see. She is such a nice person and, you know, it nice to see good things happen to her.
Karrie Webbs finds it impossible to get upset when she loses to Ochoa. Again, its that wonderful personality, as much as it is the golf skills.
Ever since she has been out on tour, she has played very well, Webb began. I think this year is probably just a little bit of maturity, just getting a little bit older, understanding her game. Of the young players, she has got the best balance in her life.
She is able to come to the golf course and be a fierce competitor, but shes also very respectful of everyone else she plays with. And when she has her weeks off, it's not 24/7 golf. She gets away from it.
And Lorena is the real thing, as genuine as a Mexican piata. She wins her golf tournaments, then she retreats to being just herself. And, she doesnt need to apologize for her modesty.
I am 100 per cent happy like this,' she says in all humility. 'I don't like that much attention on myself.'
The attention is bound to come after the breakthrough season she just went through. But somewhere down there in Guadalajara, shell be back with her family sitting around the dinner table. Lorena Ochoa may be famous to everyone else, but to herself, shes just a very proud Mexican lady.
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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x