Poised for a Comeback

By Randall MellNovember 9, 2010, 4:46 am

LPGA Tour _newLorena Ochoa is back.

A little more than six months after she announced she was retiring, she’s back on a sponsor’s exemption as host of the LPGA’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational at Guadalajara Country Club on the course where she grew up in Mexico.

It promises to be a wonderful week for all the fans in her homeland who can’t wait to see her compete again. And while it promises to be a special week for the former colleagues who grew to admire her, it’s also a week filled with curiosity.

LPGA observers are eager to embrace Ochoa no matter how she plays because her place in the game transcends performance now, but they’re also daring to wonder: Could Ochoa win this week?

With her victory at the Mission Hills Star Trophy celebrity pro-am just over a week ago, Ochoa raises the possibility she might be more than a polite host in Guadalajara.

While the Mission Hills event had a silly season edge to it, Ochoa walked away with a very serious prize, a $1.28 million first-place check.

It makes you wonder exactly how the time away has affected Ochoa.

Has it softened the edge Ochoa needs to win at the highest levels in competitions more serious than the Star Trophy? Or has the time away regenerated and refreshed the spirit that made Ochoa such a formidable champion?

Hall of Famer Judy Rankin wouldn’t put it past Ochoa to go out and stun her fellow tour pros for the second time this year.

While Rankin isn’t expecting Ochoa to win this week, it wouldn’t shock her.

“It would be a great story,” Rankin said. “If Lorena comes in relaxed with nothing to lose, she might blow everyone away. It seems to me her career’s not over.”

By that, Rankin doesn’t mean she’s expecting Ochoa to return to the LPGA ranks for another run. She means that Ochoa’s got the unique opportunity to play the game for fun and meaning in a way no other tour pro ever has. Ochoa has a chance to use her golf skills to make competitively meaningful cameos that continue to fuel the dreams she has for her foundations, charity projects and other humanitarian quests. Rankin sees Ochoa playing at a high level while continuing to win causes and fund dreams in exhibitions, pro-ams and even limited LPGA appearances that keep her brand strong.

Rankin wouldn’t be surprised if that’s more than enough motivation to keep Ochoa’s game at a level needed to win tour events.

“In almost every way, Lorena’s one of a kind,” Rankin said. “In many ways, she did what she could do in the game, what she wanted to do in the game. Now, I think she’s very fortunate to play and do things exactly the way she wants to do them.”

And what’s Ochoa’s vision as it relates to a return to the LPGA?

In a telephone interview just before leaving for the Mission Hills Star Trophy event, Ochoa told GolfChannel.com that she would continue to play LPGA events in Mexico for her fans there, but she would also like to play a couple more times a year in LPGA events elsewhere, perhaps on sponsor exemptions. She wouldn’t mind playing the Evian Masters, Kraft Nabisco Championship or Women’s British Open. There have been reports she might be interested in hosting an LPGA event in San Antonio, where she’s making connections with the Hispanic population there.

But a comeback?

“I don’t see it happening,” Ochoa said. “It would be great to play a couple more times a year, just to enjoy the moments, but I would never get back to playing full time.”

Ochoa says she hasn’t missed the tour’s rigors.

“I’m happy,” Ochoa said. “I made the right decision. I don’t have any regrets.”

Ochoa’s fulfilling her plan when she released a statement on April 20 relaying her intention to retire and three days later made it official in a news conference.

Ochoa, who turns 29 on November 15, took the No. 1 world ranking from Annika Sorenstam in April of 2007 and held it for more than three years. With 27 LPGA titles, two of them major championships, Ochoa said she wanted to devote herself more fully to her new husband, Aeromexico CEO Andres Conesa, and his three children, and the causes her beloved foundation supports, including a school, LaBarranca, in Guadalajara. She married Conesa 11 months ago.

“I enjoy waking up at home and having breakfast with my husband,” Ochoa said. “I spend time with friends and relatives in the afternoon. We spend as much time as we can with the children. Andres and I like to play tennis together. I’ve been able to do some horseback riding again. I’m busy with my foundation. I’m happy.”

Ochoa said she’s also kept her game sharp.

“I practice three to four hours a day,” she said. “I play a lot with friends.”

That leads to a question about this week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational and what competitive expectations she brings. Is she playing to win? Or to have fun?

“Both,” Ochoa said. “I want to win and have fun.

“I’m going to be easier on myself this week. I’m just trying to enjoy myself, appreciate being with my friends and being with the best players in the world and being in front of my people. It’s going to be easier for me than it’s been the last couple years because I have nothing to lose and can just enjoy the moment.

“My game is good, but it’s easier to play when you have nothing to lose, when you don’t have the same pressure and you’re playing for fun. I’m playing a lot with friends.”

Ochoa said she doesn’t miss the tour. In fact, she says she doesn’t really follow what’s going on.

“Maybe every couple weeks, I check what’s happening, but I don’t follow it that closely,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa says she does miss LPGA players and the friendships she made on the tour. She misses knowing what’s happening in players’ lives beyond their scores.

“I think I’ll pick up right where I left off with players, and it will be like we just saw each other yesterday,” she said. “I’m pretty sure about that. I can’t wait to hear the stories. Instead of having to concentrate so much on the game, and worrying about rest, I’ll be able to be a little more open. I’ll get to spend more time with friends and talking to players. I’ll see everything with different eyes.”

Rankin and others can’t help wondering how that might re-generate Ochoa’s game and make the week more fun than anyone who loves Ochoa thought possible when she announced her retirement.

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.