Creamer Ochoa Take on Ward

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LAS VEGAS -- Wendy Ward knows what it takes to win the traditionally low-scoring Takefuji Classic.
 
'You have to be more aggressive, for sure. I also think a three-day tournament kind of lends itself to that; you have to get off to a fast start out of the gate,' she said.
 
Ward got off to a fast start last year, shooting an opening 7-under 65 over the Las Vegas Country Club layout. Then she kept it up, with all three rounds in the 60s and a 16-under 200 to win the 54-hole event.
 
Lorena Ochoa finished second at 202, followed by Paula Creamer and Shi Hyun Ahn another shot back in a third-place tie.
 
The 6,550-yard, par-72 Las Vegas layout presents a different kind of challenge for the LPGA players, said Ward, who had 18 birdies and only two bogeys in the 2005 tournament.
 
'This is a fun course because this is a side of golf we don't get to play that often -- the hard, fast conditions,' she said of the course carved out of the desert.
 
She said she usually shoots at flags and the ball holds, but that's not the case on this course.
 
'You almost have to manage yourself better around the course -- running through fairways, going over greens, you've got to calculate that. More thought goes into it,' she said.
 
Ward, who ended a four-year victory drought with her Las Vegas win a year ago, went on to finish in the top 10 in four other events, including a pair of thirds, and ended the season 17th on the money list with $675,129 for her best year since 2001.
 
The Las Vegas win got her rolling.
 
'It's the jump start that kind of kicks everything into gear, where your confidence is like, 'Give me the yardage,' I pull the club, I hit, go up there and knock it in,' the 32-year-old Ward said. 'It's just the mentality and rhythm, like (Phil) Mickelson the last few weeks.
 
'That's fun to watch, but it's also fun to know that I've experienced that and you can just carry it over.'
 
Returning to the site of her only win since 2001 also gives her a confidence boost heading into Thursday's opening round of the event that runs through Saturday.
 
'There is a feeling and a sensation, like 'I'm the champ,' that's who everybody remembers,' Ward said. 'I don't ever think of it that way, but it's fun and it's exciting.
 
'For me, it's like, 'Wendy, it's time to start playing again.''
 
Among Those back to challenge Ward this year is Ochoa, who lost a playoff to Karrie Webb in the Kraft Nabisco championship earlier this month, her second playoff loss of the year.
 
In Las Vegas a year ago, Ochoa shot a 74 the first day, then got it going the next two days with 63-65 to fall just short in her comeback bid.
 
Creamer, with two top-10 finishes in the five events she's played this year, also is back.
 
'I like this golf course a lot. Last year I took third, so I'm feeling very confident with it,' said Creamer, a 19-year-old in her second season on the tour.
 
She's certainly aiming high for 2006.
 
'By the end of the year, I do want to be the No. 1 player in the world. That's a goal of mine,' Creamer said. 'I want to be in contention every week.'
 
Others in the field include 2004 champion Cristie Kerr and 17-year-old In-Bee Park, a Las Vegas resident who will be making her pro debut. She finished fifth in the tournament as an amateur last year and eighth in 2004.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - LPGA Takefuji Classic