Ochoa Turns it Around Bastel Leads

RSS

McDonalds LPGAHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. -- Lorena Ochoa had sufficiently recovered from a double bogey and was slowly making her way up the leaderboard Thursday in the McDonalds LPGA Championship when she stopped to ask a question on her way to the next tee.
 
What did Annika shoot today? she asked.
 
Told that Sorenstam had a 2-under 70 in the morning, Ochoa nodded her head.
 
Then she made sure she was one better.
 
Ochoa didnt finish in the lead, but she was close enough to be satisfied with her start. Four birdies on her flawless back nine at Bulle Rock gave her a 3-under 69, leaving Ochoa three shots behind Lorie Kane of Canada and Emily Bastel as she tries to become only the fourth woman to win three straight majors.
 
Today was important just not to get away too far from the leaders, and thats why Im so happy that I did, Ochoa said. Three under for the first day of a major is good, even though I had the double bogey. And hopefully, tomorrow Ill have a great round.
 
Neither of the leaders have had a top 10 all year, and Kane has struggled to make cuts. But they found their way across a long and soggy golf course, with took on so much rain overnight that fairways felt like carpet in a home that had been flooded.
 
Am I surprised by a low round? I knew it was in me, and I know I have a lot more of those, Kane said. I know its a long way to Sunday, but I am encouraged by whats been happening the last few weeks.
 
Bastel finished her bogey-free 66 with a hybrid into 12 feet for birdie on the 18th hole, one of two holes where the tees were moved up some 30 yards to accommodate the wet conditions.
 
She won the Futures Tour money title a year ago, and is slowly making progress.
 
Its exciting to have this happen, said Bastel, playing in only her sixth major. Early in the week, just try to enjoy it and keep it going.
 
Lindsey Wright had a 67 and was one shot behind, followed by a group at 68 that included Nicole Castrale.
 
Ochoa seems to always know the score, and she didnt stop with her question about Sorenstam.
 
She gazed at an electronic board behind the seventh green, her 16th of the day, to size up the competition and make sure they were not getting too far away. A year ago, Ochoa plodded along around par until she was too far back to make a move.
 
Perhaps she inquired about Sorenstam because she never saw the Swedes name on the board. Sorenstam certainly had her chances, but couldnt convert several birdie putts inside 12 feet.
 
Hit the ball beautifully today, said Sorenstam, a three-time LPGA champion in her final year on tour. Just didnt make some putts today, unfortunately. But Im very, very happy with my game.
 
Ochoa went wire-to-wire to win at St. Andrews to win her first major at the Womens British Open, and she was atop the leaderboard the final three rounds of the Kraft Nabisco for her second in a row.
 
But she was on the ropes early at Bulle Rock.
 
Ochoa hooked her tee shot into waist-high native grasses on the 13th, so deep in the rough that even taking two club lengths for an unplayable lie did not give her a shot. After conferring with a rules official, she walked some 50 yards back in a line with the green, dropping in the rough near the 11th fairway. She wound up with a double bogey, 2 over after four holes.
 
It happened early in the round, and I knew I had a lot of holes left, Ochoa said. I was feeling good. I didnt get too stressed. I just thought, Make a couple of birdies on the front and finish even, and then 3 under on the back. So I did that.
 
She got back to even par with a 40-foot birdie on the 18th, then birdied the third and fourth holes from 12 feet.
 
By then, Ochoa was in a rhythm of fairways and greens, picking up her last birdie on the par-5 eighth with a 5-wood into 20 feet and an eagle putt that hung on the lip.
 
Bastel handled the length of the course just fine, picking up two birdies with metal clubs'the hybrid on the 18th and a 7-wood to 12 feet on the 13th hole'and the only downer was coping with a nasty cold.
 
Kane, a popular Canadian with a big smile, has gone seven years since her last victory and was starting to wonder what was wrong. A month ago at the Michelob Ultra Open, she wasnt aware that sports psychologist Bob Rotella was watching her along the back nine. He told her she was doing fine, and when the putts started falling, they would fall in bunches.
 
She made four from the 10-foot range, chipped in for birdie on the 13th and picking up much-needed confidence along the way.
 
This is a major week for Kane for two reasons'after the LPGA Championship, she will try to qualify for the U.S. Womens Open. Kanes caddie asked her if she wanted to take a free pass from the pro-am and practice on the qualifying courses.
 
She declined.
 
Im here to win the McDonalds, and Im preparing for that, she said. Im going to worry about Monday when Monday comes.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
     
    Golf for Women
    Editor's Note: Don't miss the live LPGA Championship blog, as well as other championship coverage, from partner Golf for Women magazine at golfforwomen.com.