Ochoa Wins Wraps Up POY

By Sports NetworkNovember 12, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Mitchell Co. Tournament of ChampionsMOBILE, Ala. -- Lorena Ochoa knew what she needed to do Sunday to win the Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions. A solid round would give her a sixth win of the season.
Ochoa responded. The Mexican fired a stellar 7-under 65 to romp to a 10-stroke win, a record winning margin for this event. She finished at 21-under-par 267, which is a new tournament scoring record. It was also Ochoa's third straight win.
With the win, Ochoa earns her first Player of the Year award. Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb combined to win 10 of the last 11 Player of the Year awards. Other than Sorenstam and Webb, Ochoa is the first woman since 1996 to win Player of the Year.
'It's kind of hard to describe. After what happened on Friday on my first hole, it was a big challenge and a big thing,' said Ochoa, who started with a double-bogey on Friday. 'I was just trying to keep myself in a good position in the tournament. Winning the tournament was very special. I think this is going to be a place I will remember for the rest of my life and just achieving my goal of being the best player in 2006. It was a great day today.'
Juli Inkster closed with a 4-under 68 to join Paula Creamer in second place at 11-under-par 277. Creamer closed with a 70.
Angela Stanford also shot 70 on Sunday to take fourth at minus-7. Joo Mi Kim managed a 72 in the final round to end alone in fifth at 4-under-par 284 at Magnolia Grove Crossings Course.
Ochoa, who has struggled in the past at closing tournaments, made sure this would not be close. She two-putted for birdie on the par-5 fourth and made it two straight with a tap-in birdie on five.
The Mexican also birdied the sixth to make it three in a row. Those birdies moved her to 17 under par. Ochoa made her only mistake on the par-3 eighth. She bogeyed that hole for the second straight day as she was unable to get up and down for par from a bunker.
Ochoa quickly atoned for that error with a 15-foot birdie putt on nine. Around the turn, she pulled away from the field. She birdied No. 11 and came right back with her fourth birdie in four days at the 12th.
The 24-year-old made it three in a row with a birdie on the par-5 13th. Ochoa went on to birdie 15 as well. She closed with three straight pars to finish at minus-21, breaking Se Ri Pak's tournament record of 268, which was set in 2002.
'I was glad it was Friday and that it happened on the first hole,' said Ochoa, who earned $150,000 for the win, of her double-bogey at the first on Friday. 'It didn't make me mad... It was just the beginning, just the start, and I thought, no problem. So I challenged myself and I tried really hard and worked really hard and it ended up being good.'
Creamer got as close as anyone to Ochoa on Sunday. Creamer posted three front- nine birdies to move to 12 under. She also birdied the 11th to remain five behind Ochoa.
As Ochoa kept making birdies, Creamer cooled off. She tripped to bogeys on 12 and 14 to slip back to 11 under. Creamer closed with four pars to join her Solheim Cup teammate, Inkster, in second place.
'The last three holes I had some big putts to make to get second on my own,' admitted Creamer. 'I knew that going on to the 16th. I am pleased with how I played. I started off real strong on the front nine today. I put some pressure on Lorena, but she has been playing awesome so what are you going to do.'
Inkster stumbled to a bogey on the first. She bounced back with an eagle on the fourth to move to minus-eight. After five straight pars, the Hall-of-Famer posted consecutive birdies from the 13th. Inkster notched her final birdie on 16 to finish at minus-11.
Dorothy Delasin struggled to a two-over 74 Sunday. She ended in a share of sixth place alongside the last two Women's British Open champions Jeong Jang (68) and Sherri Steinhauer (70). Cristie Kerr and Soo-Yun Kang both closed with rounds of three-under 69 to share ninth at minus-two.
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