Ochoa busy with tourney, charities and child on way

By Randall MellNovember 10, 2015, 1:16 am

Lorena Ochoa won’t be teeing it up in her LPGA event in Mexico City this week, and she won’t be playing the pro-am, either.

Ochoa happily reports there is a very good reason for that: She’s seven months pregnant, due in January with her third child, a boy.

“Every other year the players come here, I have a big belly,” Ochoa told GolfChannel.com with a laugh. “I haven’t practiced or played that much.”

Ochoa’s youngest child, Julia, turned 2 years old last week. Her oldest, Pedro, will turn 4 in December. She and her husband, Andres Conesa Labastida, plan to name their newest child Diego.

While Ochoa won’t be playing this week, her presence will be strong throughout the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. From the clinics to the pro-am to the trophy presentation, Ochoa, who turns 34 on Sunday, will be there relishing all that the tournament means to her and to growing golf in her homeland.

It seems Ochoa’s life is all about nurturing these days, nurturing family, her foundation’s charities and her golf tournament, which turns 8 years old this week. Ochoa continues to pour herself into her causes.

“It’s a very special week,” said Ochoa, a 27-time LPGA winner who retired five seasons ago. “In a way, it makes me feel like I’m back on tour.

“I keep telling Julia and Pedro that my tournament is coming, and my friends are coming. They are getting older and more aware of golf and what I used to do. It’s an exciting week.”

While the Lorena Ochoa Invitational has faced some sponsorship challenges, Ochoa happily reports obstacles are being overcome to keep the event going. Golf isn’t a national sports priority in Mexico, but she has been working hard to secure its future. The event’s contract runs through next year.

“We have a lot of challenges every year, especially this year, with the Formula One race here last week,” Ochoa said. “It was difficult because all the attention went to that. At the same time, we are solid. We struggled a little bit with sponsors, but we were able to make it, and we already have sponsors committed to next year. So, we’ve decided to continue on with the LPGA. We’re in good shape.”

Ochoa was the Rolex world No. 1 when she announced her retirement in the spring of 2010. Today, Alejandra Llaneza is the highest ranked Mexican woman in the world rankings at No. 327. Ochoa is hopeful her event and golf’s return to the Olympics next year will fuel the game’s growth in Mexico.

“We don’t get the attention we would like,” Ochoa said of golf.

Ochoa says having Carlos Ortiz playing on the PGA Tour is a big deal now.

“The girls are getting there,” Ochoa said. “Little by little, they’re getting in position. We have a few on the Symetra Tour and a few in Q-School in December.”

Llaneza is one of three players from Mexico who will be competing in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational on sponsor exemptions. Llaneza won on the Symetra Tour this year and finished sixth on that tour’s money list, earning a return to the LPGA. She was an LPGA rookie in 2014. Also playing on sponsor invites are Margarita Ramos, a second-year Symetra Tour player, and amateur Gaby Lopez, the University of Arkansas standout who was runner-up in the NCAA Women’s Championship last May.

“I think this is one of the main reasons we have the tournament,” Ochoa said. “It really opens a door for these players. It’s important for them to be able to play with the top players, to dream about playing the LPGA and see that they belong.”

This same trio of Mexican women played well in Ochoa’s event a year ago. Llaneza tied for 19th and Ramos and Lopez each tied for 23rd. It may be a limited-field event, but it’s a strong field of 36 players.

“I’d love to see Mexico have a team in the Olympics,” Ochoa said. “I think it’s a realistic goal.”

Ochoa’s foundation continues to do the work she dedicated herself to even before she retired.

La Barranca is continuing to grow. That’s the primary and secondary school Ochoa’s foundation supports for 355 students in the impoverished outskirts of Guadalajara, where she grew up. Ochoa’s efforts have helped fund a recent expansion, with a new roof erected over the school’s basketball court and a music program expanded with pianos, cellos, violins and other instruments provided.

“We are really happy with the way it’s been growing,” Ochoa said. “Now that I have more time to be there, it feels good to see the improvements and what all the hard work is doing.”

Ochoa’s Lorena’s Links Community Programs have grown beyond nine sites in Southern California, where they offer outreach activities to families in schools, parks and at her golf academy in Jurupa Valley. Lorena’s Links reaches youth with programs that include golf but go beyond the game. They’ve expanded to Texas now.

The Lorena Ochoa Invitational is an important part of Ochoa’s vision for her country and the game.

“The LPGA’s been a great support,” Ochoa said. “There’s been real teamwork. They understand how challenging it’s been, but how important it is. We’re going to continue to make it happen. Hopefully, next year, it will be easier.”

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

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

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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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.