First Names Say it All


Lorena and Ernie. We had gotten so used to Annika and Tiger. And to be sure, the time of Sorenstam and Woods has not yet passed. But the point is, in golf now, when we say Lorena and Ernie there is no need to mention their last names which, by the way, are Ochoa and Els.
Lorena won in Singapore Sunday, lapping a strong LPGA field. Ernie outlasted everybody in Florida, shooting the low round of the day in trying conditions to beat 54-hole co-leader Luke Donald by a shot.
For Els it was his first victory on American soil in almost four years. You have to go back to the 2004 Memorial for the Big Easys last win in the States.
We play out here to win, he said after the round. I guess we get addicted to that feeling and when you dont get your rush, so to speak, you miss it.
You can make the argument that nobody in mens golf needed that rush more than Ernie. He has talked openly about the demons inside his head. He worked with golf shrink Bob Rotella extensively during the week at the Honda Classic. And now his head is clear as the games focus turns toward Augusta and the Masters Tournament five weeks away.
As compelling as the golf was at Palm Beach Gardens, it was impossible to ignore what happened on the womens side in Singapore.
World No. 1 Lorenas 11-shot victory at the HSBC Womens Champions was an eye-opener. The LPGA margin of victory record for 72 holes is 14 shots and was set by Cindy Mackey back in 1986.
Even more of an eye opener was who Lorena beat in Singapore. Second place belonged to World No. 2 Annika Sorenstam. Third place money went to Paula Creamer. This was the LPGAs third event of the year. Sorenstam won the first, Creamer the second.
With apologies to Suzann Pettersen and Karrie Webb, can you say Big Three in womens golf?
Singapores was Ochoas 2008 debut. Can you say style? Can you say statement?
We have no idea what course she was playing out here, said Creamer afterward.
Annika was impressed, too. But not quite ready to concede Ochoas superiority. Shes playing well, Sorenstam said. But its nothing I dont think thats not achievable by any means. I think Im playing as good from tee to green. So Im very proud of the way I hit it.
To put Ochoas 20 under in perspective, only 13 players in the field were below par for the week. I took my game to a new level, she said. So Im going to keep trying to repeat myself.
People are beginning to wonder who will lose first in 2008, Tiger or Lorena? They used to ask these questions about Tiger and Annika. Its an honor to be compared, Ochoa said. Im going to try to go after him.
The LPGA has just two events on its schedule before the years first major, the Kraft Nabisco, which is a month away. Before that they will go to Mexico City where Ochoa will be a heavy favorite in her native land. And then they will play the Safeway in Arizona where Sorenstam famously beat Ochoa in a playoff in 2005. Ochoa is the defending champion there.
Looks for Ernie at the PODS Championship this week followed by Arnolds tournament at Bay Hill and the WGC-CA at Doral.
Soon enough there will be majors: Kraft Nabisco for the women and, the week after that, the Masters.
Dont take your eyes off Lorena and Ernie.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Honda Classic
  • Full Coverage - HSBC Women's Champions