Lorena Has Begun Setting Her Own Course

By Associated PressApril 22, 2008, 4:00 pm
Of all the trophies Lorena Ochoa has collected since her magical hands first touched a golf club, one of her favorite mementos is a photograph taken when she was 12, standing beside a teenager who even then looked like a giant in the game.
 
Her head doesnt quite reach the shoulders of 17-year-old Tiger Woods.
 
They posed in 1993 after Ochoa won her age division for the fourth straight year at the Junior World Golf Championship. They did not see each other again until last year at the Golf Writers Association of America dinner in Augusta, Ga., where Ochoa and Woods were honored as players of the year.
 
Woods eyes lit up when he saw the Mexican phenom, and he wrote an extensive message on the photo before signing it.
 
Now they are linked by more than just a snapshot.
 
As Woods continues to rule his sport, Ochoa has emerged as a force in womens golf. She has won five of her six tournaments this year, including a major, by a combined 37 shots, raising questions about who is the more dominant player.
 
Thats something thats out of my hands, Ochoa said. Thats more the fans and the media point of view. But to be able to put my name next to him is always an honor, and Im happy with that.
 
Each seemed destined for greatness at an early age.
 
Woods learned the game before he could walk, mesmerized by his father swinging a golf club as Woods sat in a high chair. Ochoa was climbing trees at Guadalajara Country Club when she was 5 and broke both wrists after falling some 15 feet. She was in a cast from her shoulders to her fingers for three months.
 
They said the doctor gave me magical wrists, some magic in my hand, Ochoa once said.
 
Since setting an NCAA record at Arizona by winning eight straight tournaments as a sophomore, the 26-year-old Mexican has hit her stride and is running side-by-side with Woods.
 
Both are No. 1 in the world rankings, with more than double the points of the next-best player.
 
Woods skipped the PGA TOURs first two events in Hawaii, then began his season with an eight-shot victory at Torrey Pines. Ochoa skipped the LPGA Tours first two events in Hawaii, then made her 2008 debut in Singapore and won by 11 strokes.
 
Woods won four straight times to start the season, extending a streak that began in September. Ochoa won her fourth straight start last week in Orlando, Fla., the first woman in 45 years to win four consecutive events on the schedule. Next week in Tulsa, Okla., she can tie the LPGA record for consecutive victories held by Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez.
 
Ochoa has won 19 times since the start of the 2006 season, including the last two majors. Woods has won 18 times on the PGA TOUR since 2006 with three majors, although he has played 20 fewer events.
 
The biggest difference between them'at least this year'is their quest for a Grand Slam.
 
Woods was the runner-up, three strokes back, at the Masters, ending his bid before it could get started. A week earlier, Ochoa ran off three straight birdies around the turn to pull away and win the Kraft Nabisco Championship by five shots.
 
It was her second straight major, having won the Womens British Open last summer at St. Andrews.
 
I guess right now Im a little bit ahead because I won the last two, Ochoa said.
 
Perhaps more parallels await.
 
Ochoa will be going for her third straight major at the LPGA Championship the first week of June. Pat Bradley in 1986 was the last woman to win three straight majors, while Woods is the only professional'male or female'to capture four in a row.
 
What can stop her?
 
Id like to believe nothing and nobody, Ochoa said after winning the Nabisco. I know this is just the beginning of the year. I know I put some high goals this year, but I want to try to keep going.
 
It was only three years ago that similar comparisons were made between Woods and Sorenstam, who dominated womens golf for five years. Sorenstam won six of her first eight tournaments in 2005, including the first two majors, by wearing down the field with her consistent, precise, robotic play.
 
Ochoa brings far more sizzle, not to mention power, and it shows in how badly she is crushing her competition. Ochoa twice has won tournaments by 11 shots this year.
 
At the Safeway International outside Phoenix, the strongest field in womens golf, she won by seven strokes.
 
Everything that shes done this year has been phenomenal, Brittany Lincicome said.
 
Even more remarkable is a graciousness rarely found in an athlete so ruthless.
 
Ochoa is proud of her heritage and her people, and often goes to the maintenance barn at golf tournaments to visit with the grounds crew, most of whom are Latino. She spent a half-hour with them at the Kraft Nabisco in Palm Desert, Calif., helping them cook breakfast, talking soccer and thanking them for their work.
 
When she closed out last season with a $1 million payday, Ochoa pledged $100,000 for flood victims in Mexico and set aside a large amount to help build schools for needy children in her town.
 
LPGA officials still rave about last year at the Ginn Tribute, which honored the women who founded the LPGA Tour in 1950. Some of the founders asked for Ochoas autograph, and only after signing did she go back and ask for theirs. She also had her picture taken with them.
 
To keep for memories, Ochoa said.
 
No doubt, she will treasure it along with the photo with Woods, both in their own way reminding her of an amazing journey.
 
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    Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

    SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

    Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

    ''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

    Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

    ''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

    Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.


    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

    He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

    ''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

    Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

    ''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

    Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

    Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

    But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

    ''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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    LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

    LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

    Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

    Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

    Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

    ''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

    That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

    ''Too many,'' Park said.

    The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

    ''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

    The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

    Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.


    Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


    Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

    Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

    ''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

    Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

    She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

    ''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

    ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

    Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

    Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

    The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

    Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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    Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

    By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

    Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

    While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

    The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

    "I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."


    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

    With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

    "Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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    Three years later, PXG launches new iron

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

    Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

    “Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

    PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

    The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

    Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.