Ochoa Makes it Look Easy Wins Kraft Nabisco Championship


2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Lorena Ochoa, the Mexican star who once struggled in the majors, now is making them look easy.
Ochoa continued her dominance of womens golf Sunday with a five-shot victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, giving her the last two majors by a combined nine shots. She was the only player without a bogey in the final round on a tough Mission Hills course, closing with a 5-under 67 and taking the greatest swim of her life.
She won by five shots over Suzann Pettersen and Annika Sorenstam, among many major champions being left behind in the massive wake of Ochoa, who has won three out of four tournaments this year by a combined 23 shots.
Nothing can stop her, said Se Ri Pak, who became the youngest player inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last year, a record that certainly will be broken by the 26-year-old Ochoa.
Ochoa, who finished at 11-under 277, never trailed under the blazing desert sun, and was threatened only briefly. But she fired off three straight birdies around the turn to build a five-shot lead, and kept it simple with pars the rest of the way.
This was the 20th anniversary of when Amy Alcott began the Nabisco tradition of the winner jumping into the lake surrounding the 18th green, but there has rarely been such a festive moment.
A mariachi band serenaded Ochoa with Canta y no llores, which translates to Sing and dont cry. Ochoa grabbed hands with her parents and sister-in-law, sprinted toward the water and jumped with both arms in the air. Her brother, Alejandro, coach Rafael Alcaron and caddie Dave Brooker leapt from the bridge. Before long, there were two dozen friends and family in the water, bobbing to the rhythm of the mariachi band and celebrating another major championship.
Theyre all sweet, Ochoa said.
Lorena is pronounced similar to la reina, Spanish for the queen, and theres no doubt who rules womens golf.
Ochoa became the first player since Sorenstam in 2005 to win consecutive majors, and with as much dominance as Tiger Woods enjoys on the PGA Tour, she also has raised possibilities of winning all four majors.
Sorenstam, who battled a stomach virus on the weekend, tried to give Ochoa a run but could never get closer than three shots. She closed with a 68 and tied for second with Pettersen, who also had a 68.
Even healthy, its doubtful she could have had enough to stop Ochoa.
Sorenstam was impressed that Ochoa would handle the pressure of playing before what amounts to a home crowd in the California desert, with Mexican flags at every turn, and with the memories of blowing good chances at Mission Hills the last two years.
She has come out as the leader and is staying as the leader, Sorenstam said. That takes a lot of courage, takes a lot of guys and it takes a good athlete. I could be wrong, but I think the goal for her is just to take one tournament at a time and try to win each one of them. And it turns out to be the last two majors. Im sure it wont be the last, either.
Ochoa earned $300,000 for her 20th victory, and is one point away from the performance criteria of the World Golf Hall of Fame. She could get that next week with a victory in Mexico, although Ochoa would have to wait until she completes 10 years on the LPGA Tour, which would be 2012.
Even when I was on a roll, I dont think I ever dominated like this, said Karrie Webb, who won five out of eight majors from 1999 through 2001, when she ruled the LPGA. People dont understand how hard it is to stay on top of your game like that. I did it for a few years. Annika did it for five. Tiger has done it for 12.
Ochoa had some nervous moments, feeling the most pressure from Hee-Won Han until a quick turnaround on the front nine.
A birdie-birdie start gave Ochoa a three-shot lead for the third straight day, but opportunities became scarce. Over the next five holes, she was never closer than 30 feet to the hole, and Han was taking dead aim. The South Korean made birdie from 12 feet on No. 4 and from about 8 feet on No. 6, closing to within one shot.
It looked as though Han would be at least tied for the lead on the seventh when Ochoa pulled her approach into the rough, leaving a fast, 40-foot chip. Han was below the cup about 25 feet away for birdie.
But Ochoa chipped to 4 feet and saved par, while Han three-putted for bogey. Facing a left pin and a left-to-right wind on the tough par-3 eighth, Ochoa hit a draw with a 6-iron that held nicely against the breeze and stopped 15 feet away for birdie. Han pulled her shot into the trees and took bogey. Another two-shot swing followed on the ninth, with Ochoa making a 12-foot birdie putt to build a five-shot lead.
Her other challengers disappeared quickly, starting with U.S. Womens Open champion Cristie Kerr. She didnt make a par until the seventh hole, and her downfall came at the par-3 fifth when she hit two balls in the water, barely found land with the third and had to make a 15-foot putt to save quadruple bogey. She shot 43 on the front nine.
Ochoa walked toward the 10th tee and kept her head down as she passed the 18th hole, perhaps not wanting to think ahead of a plunge into the pond that awaited. And if anyone had any questions about the outcome, Ochoa buried a 25-foot birdie on the 10th hole.
Shes on fire right now, Pak said.
All that cooled her off was a big splash on the 18th and quite a fiesta that followed.
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