No 1 Ochoa in Native Mexico to Defend Title


2007 Corona ChampionshipMORELIA, Mexico -- It took Lorena Ochoa four tries to win an LPGA tournament in her home country of Mexico. Returning to the Tres Marias Golf Club for the $1.3 million 2007 Corona Championship, Ochoa will be surrounded by thousands of adoring fans and just as many good memories in an attempt to complete her first-ever successful title defense.
I have no way to compare this. For me, it's like a U.S. Open, being able to play in my country and win in front of my people, Ochoa said last year after her victory, in which she became just the second player in LPGA Tour history to surpass $2 million in season earnings.
Last year's victory in Morelia was the seventh in Ochoa's career. Since then, she has won three more times; was named 2006 Rolex Player of the Year and earned the 2006 Vare Trophy; recently surpassed Annika Sorenstam in the Rolex Rankings as the world's top player; and has five top-10 finishes in six starts this season to also own the top spot on the LPGA Official Money List, all in less than seven months. With a purse that has increased $300,000 from $1 million in 2006, a $195,000 winner's check would be nice, indeed. It would also signify the first successful title defense on Tour since Sorenstam earned back-to-back titles at the MasterCard Classic Honoring Alejo Peralta in 2005 and 2006.
The final round of last year's Corona Championship found Ochoa paired with Julieta Granada, of Paraguay, who also earned the respect of the Mexican fans. Ochoa defeated Granada by five strokes, but the runner-up finish gave Granada'then a LPGA Tour rookie'her second runner-up finish of the year. She also earned enough ADT Points to move into a three-way tie for second, at the time, in the LPGA Playoffs 2006. Granada was then able to qualify for the ADT Championship via ADT Points and went on to capture the first-ever $1 million paycheck in women's golf.
The course at Tres Marias Golf Club holds true to the tradition of the courses the LPGA finds itself on when in Mexic a long course in the middle of the mountains thousands of feet (6,000) above sea level. It is a test of accuracy off the tee and endurance by players. Yet, 13 of last year's top-20 finishers will return to Morelia for another chance to master the course and earn a victory. Among 2007 winners, Stacy Prammanasudh and Meaghan Francella will challenge Ochoa. Francella also brings pleasant memories of Mexico with her this week after becoming a Rolex First-Time Winner at the MasterCard Classic Honoring Alejo Peralta Presented by Televisa Deportes in March via a four-hole sudden-death playoff over defending champion Sorenstam.
Perhaps the third Rolex First-Time Winner of the season may be brewing. The 2007 LPGA rookie class has 12 exempt members, 10 of whom are in the field this week and thirsty for victory. In the race for the 2007 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, Angela Park holds a commanding 109-point lead over In-Kyung Kim on the strength of making six of six cuts and one tie for third at the Fields Open in Hawaii.
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