Fast Start Kindles Memories


RANCHO MIRAGE, Ca. -- These days on the LPGA youve got to get up pretty early in the morning - and get off to a pretty fast start - to keep up with world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa. Thursday in the first round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship Karen Stupples did both.
Stupples got up early enough to make sure the baby-sitters - her parents - had the situation in control with her one-year son, Logan, whos suffering from an ear infection. Then she got to Mission Hills Country Club in time to make the days first tee time (7:45) and shoot a bogey free, 5-under 67 in a testy wind.
Maybe more so than anybody in golf, Stupples knows a thing or two about fast starts.
Four years ago she found herself in contention at the Womens British Open at Sunningdale Golf Club in her native England. On the first hole, a par 5, she drilled her 5-iron second shot from 200 yards to 15 feet and drained the putt for eagle.
On the second hole, also a par 5, she holed her 5-iron second shot from 210 yards for a double eagle. The fairways were bouncy, she said. And it was rolling out pretty good.
In case you were scoring at home, that was 5-under par after two holes of the final round of a major championship. Stupples went on to cruise to a 5-shot victory over runner-up Rachel Hetherington.
I mean I still have to pinch myself because that was such a surreal start, Stupples said Thursday when reminded of the two most memorable golf holes of her career. I stood there and thought, Is this happening to me?
Ochoa, who started later in the morning off No. 10, birdied the 18th, first, second and third in succession to pull even with Stupples. But Ochoa bogeyed her second to last hole of the day and trailed Stupples by one at the end of the day.
Yes, Ochoa said after her round. I will take three more 68s. For sure.
Paired with defending champion Morgan Pressel, Ochoa consistently bombed it past her off the tee. One reporter asked Ochoa if she felt sorry, standing in the fairway, needing binoculars to look back and see from where Pressel was hitting her second shots.
Ochoa squirmed at the premise of the question. But pressed, she said, No.
On the other hand, Ochoa didnt hesitate for an instant when asked if she keeps track of world No. 2 Annika Sorenstam on the leader board. All the time, Ochoa said. Shes a player to watch.
Sorenstam carded a first round 71, hitting 12 fairways and 14 greens but needing 30 putts. She spent a long session on the putting green after her round.
Stupples played just eight events with only one top 10 in 2007. The pregnancy and delivery of Logan, her first child, took precedence over her career. It cost her physically- she said she really didnt regain full strength until a month ago - and financially when two of her sponsors decided they no longer wanted to support a working Mom.
I was quite surprised, Stupples said. I had kind of figured myself to be quite good friends with both companies.
But Logan Stupples, she says now, has made it all worthwhile. I am so excited to see him after I have been out playing, she said. He is just a little honey. You know, he is just ' he is great.

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