Ochoa Continues Strong Play in Mexico


LPGA Tour _newMORELIA, Mexico -- Lorena Ochoa shrugged off any home-turf jitters Thursday in the Corona Championship, eagling two par 5s in a 7-under 66 and tying for the lead with South Koreas Song-Hee Kim at the rugged Tres Marias course in western Mexico.
The top-ranked Mexican star, fresh off her second consecutive major victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, eagled the fifth and eighth holes, with her fans filling the steep, rocky valleys with cheers of Bravo! and Vamos, Lorena!
Ochoa has three victories in four starts this year to push her LPGA Tour total to 20. She also has moved within a victory of the performance criteria for the World Golf Hall of Fame, although she wont be eligible for induction until 2012.
She said she wasnt thinking about qualifying for the Hall of Fame on Thursday.
I managed to have that out of my mind and to stay relaxed, she said.
She also put aside the pressure of playing at home, where she only has one victory in seven tour starts'the 2006 Corona Championship. She lost last years tournament by two strokes to Italys Silvia Cavalleri.
Last month, in the MasterCard Classic outside Mexico City, Ochoa opened with a 4-over 76'her worst score in nearly a year'and ended up tying for eighth place.
But that was at Bosque Real, a course that gives her trouble. Tres Marias, a par-73 layout carved across dry gullies and into steep hillsides, is one she enjoys.
This is a tournament where I feel very comfortable, she said. Its easier in Morelia than in Mexico City.
Playing the back nine first, she made the turn at 2 under. She got to 4 under with a 25-foot eagle putt on the fifth hole, birdied the par-3 sixth and reached 7 under with a 22-foot eagle putt on No. 8.
I was just trying to be patient and I guess the payback was the two eagle putts, she said. I have no complaints. Im happy.
Kim had a chance to take the lead, but a bogey on her final hole'the par-4 ninth'dropped her into a tie for the lead with Ochoa. Still, Kim was happy with her score.
Every shot felt really perfect today, she said.
Carin Koch, the 2005 winner, was three strokes back along with Kim Williams, Audra Burks, Inbee Park, Na Yeon Choi and Hee Young Park.
Cavalleri struggled, shooting a 75.
But the real star, even before she pulled into the lead, was Ochoa.
After her final hole, she was surrounded by a pack of fans asking for autographs and straining above the crowd to take her picture. Many were young girls hoping to follow in her footsteps, including 3-year-old Mariana Mena, who held a golf ball scribbled with Ochoas signature.
Mena already plays golf, as does her 4-year-old sister, Bianca, their father, Mario Mena, said proudly. The whole family follows Ochoas career.
The girls, they know her, he said.
Shes pretty, Bianca chimed in.
Ochoa said playing at home was extra special and she looked forward to the larger crowds expected this weekend.
Im ready for it, she said. I cant wait to get the feel of the big crowd and hopefully play good for all of them.
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