Ochoa Nets First Title as New No 1


2006 Sybase ClassicCLIFTON, N.J. -- Lorena Ochoa won for the first time since replacing Annika Sorenstam as the No. 1 player in women's golf, and put an exclamation point on it by defending her Sybase Classic title.
Ochoa caught front-running Sarah Lee and finished three strokes ahead Sunday, closing with a bogey-free 4-under 68 in the event that turned into match play after the top two distanced themselves from the field the day before.
The victory was the second of the season and the 11th of her career for the 25-year-old Mexican, who was the LPGA Tour's top player in 2006. The $210,000 winner's share pushed her earnings this year to $965,714 and to more than $7 million in four-plus years on tour.
Ochoa had a 72-hole total of 18-under 270 on the Upper Montclair Country Club in successfully defending an LPGA title for the first time in her career. She won last year's event at the Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, N.Y., another traditional, tree-line, small green course.
Lee, looking to become the fifth first-time winner on tour this year, shot a 73 in a round where she couldn't find the green on the front nine and then couldn't make birdie on the back nine because of a tentative putting stroke.
Se Ri Pak, who is now three events from making the Hall of Fame, shot a final-round 66 to finish alone in third place at 8 under, 10 behind Ochoa and a stroke ahead of Juli Inkster (69) and Brittany Lang (67).
Lee, who led for the first three rounds and outplayed Ochoa in a head-to-head matchup on Saturday, had one biride and two bogeys in squandering the two-shot lead she took into the final round.
This was one Ochoa wanted. She became the No. 1 player last month, but she failed to win in the three events following her coronation, finishing second, fifth and 20th.
Ochoa made up the two-shot deficit in the first five holes. Lee was unlucky to give one back at the second hole when her approach hit the pin and bounced into the fringe about 25 feet away. She missed a 7-foot par saving putt.
A short birdie putt on the par-5 fifth gave Ochoa a piece of the lead and then she put the pressure on the 28-year-old Lee with birdies on Nos. 8, 9 and 11. Ochoa made an 18-footer on the par-3 eighth, babied a 10-footer into the cup on No. 9 and two-putted for another on the par-5 11th.
Lee, whose chances of winning ended when she put her third shot into the water on No. 18, had makeable birdie attempts on the 12th through the 17th, but her putts seemed to die and fall off just short of the holes, or she misread them.
Lee, who also led the first two rounds of last week's Michelob Ultra Classic, had the pins targeted in the first three rounds. However, one got the feeling early that this was not going to be her day to win. She found a greenside bunker on the first hole after hitting the middle of the fairway. She bogeyed the second after hitting the pin solid and found only three greens on the front nine. When she had birdie attempts, the putts didn't even touch the cup.
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