Ochoa back to defend Wie back in action


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PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Lorena Ochoa has made a habit of ending streaks at the Navistar LPGA Classic, whether she wanted to or not.

Ochoa beat Candie Kung with a 2-foot par putt on the second hole of a playoff last year after coming in winless in seven starts. Two years ago, Maria Hjorth kept the Mexican star from a fourth consecutive victory.

Ochoa hopes to snap an 11-tournament winless stretch dating back to the Corona Championship in late April. The $1.3 million Classic begins Thursday on the 6,546-yards, par-72 Senator Course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Capitol Hill in suburban Montgomery.

“I have nothing but good memories,” Ochoa said Wednesday. “I would love to win the tournament. I heard nobody has won the tournament twice, so it would be nice to put my name up there. I feel good playing on this course.”

She came fairly close to winning last week. Ochoa, who had won 21 times from 2006-08, finished four strokes behind winner Sophie Gustafson at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge in Danville, Calif.

Recent rains have changed the dynamics some in Prattville.

“I think I have a good plan on how to play the course,” Ochoa said. “It’s playing a little bit longer because obviously it’s a little bit wet and the rough is a little bit higher. So I think it should be a little bit different than last year.

“But at the same time, a good challenge. I’m happy to be back, and I’m going to do my best to defend my title. It would be great to win on Sunday.”

Gustafson, No. 3 money winner Cristie Kerr, Hjorth and Michelle Wie are also in the field. It’s a chance for Kerr to make up some ground on Jiyai Shin, who leads her in the Rolex Player of the Year chase.

Wie returns from a short break for the start of classes at Stanford, where’s she’s taking communications and statistics courses.

She has six top-10 finishes in 16 events, including a runner-up at the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay.

“I had a good two weeks off and a good week of school last week,” Wie said. “I’m excited to play again. I felt like I practiced a lot last week and it will be fun to put that into action.”

This is the 19-year-old’s first time playing in the Navistar Classic and her first visit to Alabama. She likes the Southern flavor just fine so far.

“I love the food here, love the music. It’s great,” Wie said. “Every other radio station here plays country music, so I’m pretty happy about that.”

She’d be even happier with her first LPGA victory.

“That’s a goal I can’t really control as much,” Wie said. “More of a personal goal is what I’ve been trying to accomplish all year: Try my hardest and play my hardest and end the week, knowing I’ve done that.”