Refreshed Ochoa ready to rule LPGA Championship


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McDonalds LPGAHAVRE DE GRACE, Md. ' Most of the golfers in the LPGA Championship spent the last three weeks honing their game in tournaments or hitting thousands of balls on the practice range.
Lorena Ochoa wasnt one of them. She took a vacation.
Ochoa last played in a competitive round of golf on May 17, when she shot a 73 to finish tied for 19th in the Sybase Classic. The top-ranked player in the world then took a few days off before working for about a week with longtime teacher Rafael Alarcon in Guadalajara. After that, she spent a week in Mexico City promoting tourism for her native country.
That may not be the best way for some to prepare for the second major on the LGPA , but Ochoa said it helped her get ready for the 72-hole tournament that begins Thursday.
It was actually a busy three weeks, Ochoa said, but it was the right time to be at home, get good practice and be here 100 percent.
Its not as if her game was need of repair. Despite playing in only eight of 11 tournaments, the 27-year-old Ochoa ranks third on the money list in 2009 and has won twice.
After winning a combined 15 events in 2007-08, Ochoa is a bit off the pace this year. Since joining the tour in 2003, however, she has amassed $13,890,414 ' third-highest in LPGA history.
So, if Ochoa decides to take three weeks off in the middle of the season, who can argue the logic?
Lorena, she knows what shes doing. She wanted to do what she planned, said In-Kyung Kim, whos coming off a victory last week in the State Farm Classic. My plan was to play before this tournament. It helps me with confidence this week.
Theres something to be said for being on a roll, but Ochoa is still considered to be among the favorites at this tournaments final stand at Bulle Rock Golf Course.
Obviously you cant overlook the No. 1 player in the world, Lorena, said Angela Stanford, who has six top-10 finishes this year.
Ochoa isnt at peak form yet, but it may not be long before that happens.
I want to be 100 percent in the summertime when we have some big tournaments. Im getting there, she said. I dont want to say Im in the best shape ever right now, because its not true. But Im making improvements.
Handicapping this tournament is nearly impossible, because Ochoa is the only two-time winner on the tour this year. Gone are the days when Annika Sorenstam would show up and automatically claim the role as the favorite.
Thats the cool thing about our tour right now. Its anybodys ball game, anybody can win, Stanford said. Thats what makes it so interesting.
McDonalds is ending its sponsorship of the tournament after this year, so the LPGA Championship will be looking for a new home and a different sponsor for 2010. Sundays final round will mark the end of an era at Bulle Rock.
Im concerned, said Paula Creamer, an eight-time winner on the LPGA. We dont know where one of our majors is going to be. Its a scary thought.
Stanford said, I dont know what the future holds, but I hope with the LPGA owning this championship, you would really like for it to be one of the top majors. Thats the way it should be.
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