Ochoa This is the Right Time

By Randall MellApril 23, 2010, 11:01 pm
Lorena Ochoa always knew she would walk away from golf in her prime.

She knew she wanted to exit when she was on top.

She envisioned it coming as she started a new family with her life changing and the game becoming less important.
Lorena Ochoa
Lorena Ochoa has 27 career victories on the LPGA. (Getty Images)
Ochoa knew all of this, and yet she didn’t know exactly when to leave until she was standing on a tee box in Asia at the LPGA’s season openers in Thailand and Singapore two months ago.

After a hard season in 2009, when she was scrutinized for losing her edge, for winning only three titles and barely claiming her fourth Rolex Player of the Year title, Ochoa tried to rededicate herself in the winter. She did this after boosting expectations with 21 titles in the three previous years.

“I came home, and I recharged my batteries,” Ochoa said Friday near her home in Mexico City in a teleconference after announcing her retirement. “I said, `OK, I'm going to practice hard. I'm going to make sure I work hard and get ready, and I'm going to try to play one more year,’ but I want to be honest with all of you. I went to Asia, and after two or three days of being in Thailand, it was really clear to see that I didn't want to be out there. I was thinking of other things. I wanted to get home. I wanted to start working on the foundation. I wanted to be here close to my family.”

The No. 1 player in women’s golf knew that at 28 it was time for her to leave the game and devote herself even more fully to her new husband, AeroMexico executive Andres Conesa, whom she married in December. She knew then it was time to give more of herself to her three stepchildren and to the foundations she cherishes.

On the other side of the world, Ochoa could more clearly see details of the ending she always imagined. She could see the retirement she announced Friday. She will say goodbye in the Tres Marias Championship in Morelia in her beloved Mexico next week, continue to play the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in her homeland each November and maybe play an odd event here and there.

Ochoa knew in Asia that it was the right thing to do with 27 LPGA titles, two majors, four Rolex Player of the Year titles and four Vare trophies already equaling a life’s work in golf.

“Once you reach your goals, it’s hard to find motivation,” Ochoa said. “You need to be brave to see that. You need to listen to your heart and make the decision. Fortunately, it was clear to me. That’s it. My last tournament will be Morelia.”

There were no stunning revelations when Ochoa announced her retirement Friday. She left for the reasons she always said would make her leave. She just left earlier than anyone imagined.

“I'm just ready to start a new life,” she said. “I just want to be a normal person. I just want to live everyday things, to be home and to give back to my family all the time that we lost in the last few years.”

Ochoa, who emerged as a young phenom in Guadalajara to become a two-time NCAA Player of the Year at the University of Arizona, seized the No. 1 ranking from Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam on April 23, 2007. She announced her retirement exactly three years later, after 157 consecutive weeks on top. She said the pressure of being No. 1 did not weigh in her decision, though fellow players have seen her show uncharacteristic frustration in her game the last year.

“Retirement didn’t come faster [because of the pressures of being No. 1],” she said. “Maybe that’s how it looks on the outside, but it came at the right time. I never felt that pressure. It was joy and happiness for the support from media and fans.

“I’m simply making the decision today because this is the right time. This is the perfect time. I’ve always said I wanted to leave at No. 1. I’m really happy. I’ve never been this happy. I’m ready to lead my life in a different way.”

Ochoa knew in Asia that the game could no longer make her as happy as it once did. In fact, her colleagues could see the game making her unhappy. They could see little bursts of temper from one of the most good-natured players the game's ever known.

“You could sense she didn’t really want to be there,” Morgan Pressel said of her final round pairing with Ochoa at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore. “She just didn’t look like she was having as much fun as she usually does.”

Ochoa, who said she hopes to expand her family with Andres by having children together, sounded like a woman with no regrets. The frustration in Asia confirmed what she’s been struggling with the last year. She can’t give all of herself to all of the endeavors that mean so much to her. She has the Lorena Ochoa Foundation, based in Mexico and dedicated to youth, education and health causes. She also just launched the Lorena Ochoa Golf Foundation, based in the United States with an aim at bringing the benefits of the game to Latinos and others “under-represented” in the game.

“It was time to make a decision from my heart,” Ochoa said. “I never doubted it. It’s why it was easy. There are so many things I would like to do. I am happy, at peace and 100 percent complete.”
Getty Images

Watch: Tiger throws dart, pours in birdie at 8

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 7:31 pm

Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which we walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

(More coming...)

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

Getty Images

McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

Getty Images

Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.