MASTERFUL PERFORMANCE: Lorena Ochoa pulled away from the field Sunday afternoon to win the LPGA Tour's first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship by five strokes. It was Ochoa's second straight major championship, following her victory in last season's Women's British Open at St. Andrews.
Some still are not comfortable with Ochoa being labeled the greatest player in the women's game, especially when it was just a short time ago that the same was being said of Annika Sorenstam. But facts are facts, and the fact is Ochoa clearly is not only the most dominate player on the LPGA Tour by far, but perhaps one of the most dominate players in all of sports at this moment. Though this week might be the playing of the actual Masters, it was Ochoa herself who was masterful this past week. Two final points: Ochoa, although facing final round pressure as the leader, shot the day's low score (5 under); she was also the only player to shoot under par for all four days. Facts are facts.
WHAT IF?: Annika Sorenstam posted a final-round 4-under 68 to finish five strokes adrift of Ochoa at the Kraft Nabisco. At one point during the final round, however, Annika had gotten to within three shots of her rivals lead before Ochoa gradually pulled away.
The 'What If?' factor here is the illness that befell Sorenstam during Saturday's third round, where she was almost forced to walk off the course and withdraw. If not for a brutal stretch of four bogeys in a five hole stretch that no doubt was caused by her nausea, it would have given golf fans one helluva Sunday show - Ochoa and Sorenstam grouped together in the final round of a major. But instead, all we were left with was a big, giant 'What if?'
WALK-OFF INVITE: Johnson Wagner held off a slew of challengers late Sunday afternoon - as well as his own nerves - to win the Shell Houston Open. It was his first-ever PGA TOUR victory and with it came an automatic two-year exemption as well as a trip to this week's Masters.
For Wagner, what a major difference a win makes. Not only does this lock up his TOUR card for two more years - which is huge, considering he came into Houston ranked 193rd on the money list - but it also fulfills an obvious lifelong dream of playing in the Masters. Missing the cut in six of his previous nine events to start the season, a stunned Wagner summed up his feelings thusly, 'I dont care if I shoot 90 both days and miss the cut. Im so excited to be there (Augusta) and its just a dream come true.' Be careful, Johnson; those greens at Augusta can quickly become a nightmare.
WHERE'S WALDO?: There are a few familiar faces that will not be amongst the azaleas for the years first mens major. Davis Love III headlines the list of players we are used to see playing at the Masters. Joining Love on the cut list is Colin Montgomerie, who has played at Augusta in 15 of the last 16 years.
With Augusta week upon us, it will indeed be odd to not see DL3s name on the leaderboard at a major - seeing as he hasnt missed one since the 1990 U.S. Open - a remarkable run of 70 in a row. As for Monty, he had some cheeky words for Augustas selection committee, pontificating that if he were from China or Japan he would have been selected for the event, based on worldwide television rights. Point taken, Monty, but having to rely on a special invite isn't your style. Is it?
CHEVRON WITH TIG-RON: Tiger Woods landed a new title sponsor for his holiday tournament in southern California, signing a five-year deal with Chevron. The Chevron World Challenge will be held Dec. 18-21 at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Tiger's event is based on the designs of raising money and developing programs to support his education-based Tiger Woods Foundation. And with gas prices slowly approaching four bucks a gallon, it seems like the Tiger Woods-Chevron partnership is a smart match because, soon enough, even one the world's richest athletes will need a possible discount when filling up his gas tank.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Spain's Alejandro Canizares missed the cut at the Shell Houston Open after posting a 12 at the par-4 18th hole on Friday; Gregory Bourdy won the Estoril Open in Portugal in a playoff to earn his maiden European Tour title.
We were surprised to see Canizares with a 12 on his card, as we thought John Daly had bought the rights to any scores in double digits; Question: if a player wins an event in Portugal a week before the Masters does it make a noise? Actually, yes, especially if you defeat a world-class player such as England's David Howell in a playoff.