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Ochoa Defends Looks to Solidify Ranking

2006 Sybase ClassicCLIFTON, N.J. -- Other than being the No. 1 player in the world, Lorena Ochoa won't have an advantage as the defending champion in the Sybase Classic.
The 25-year-old Mexican star will play the 72-hole event on a new old-fashioned course starting Thursday at the Upper Montclair Country Club.
She also is facing one other interesting fact -- she hasn't won since replacing Annika Sorenstam as the No. 1 women's player a month ago.
'There is no pressure on myself. It's just about being consistent every week,' Ochoa said Wednesday after the pro-am. 'I give myself as many chances as I can to win a tournament, and I think it will happen. I never lose my concentration. The important thing is in November at the end of the year to be at the top. One week doesn't mean anything.'
Looking at recent results, Ochoa has nothing to complain about. She has tied for second, fifth and 20th in the three events since taking over at No. 1.
'I've been really feeling good the last few weeks and I feel good with my game,' Ochoa said.
This week, however, will be different. After a 17-year stay at the Wykagyl Country Club, the $1.4 million tournament was moved because of renovations being done at the New Rochelle, N.Y., club.
Wykagyl will remain as an LPGA Tour venue as the site of the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship in July.
However, Upper Montclair is not Wykagyl, a course Ochoa loved.
'There is not a great deal of difference because they are old-style, traditional golf courses,' said Beth Daniel, who played here in the Coca-Cola Classic in 1983 using wooden fairway woods. 'Wykagyl probably has a little more movement up and down than this does, so it's a little harder to walk. This course is a little tighter.'
Juli Inkster laughed when asked about what she remembered from Upper Montclair after playing here in 1984. She didn't recall a single hole during her pro-am round on Wednesday.
'In two days you can learn a golf course,' the 46-year-old said. 'Sometimes it's better not to learn everything about a golf course. It's better to know just where you need to hit it.'
The course doesn't appear to favor the long hitters, because the rough can be tough when one misses the fairway.
For the players who went out on Wednesday, they had the advantage of playing the par-72, 6,433-yard course with the wind gusting at times.
'The trees are so big sometimes you can't feel how hard that wind is blowing,' said Meg Mallon, who is playing in her fourth event since being sidelined by a foot injury. 'Over the last couple of days I've had several shots knocked down by the wind. That's local knowledge.'
Mallon was quick to add that it's hard to look past Ochoa when picking the pre-tournament favorites.
'Her game can play on any golf course,' Mallon said.
Ochoa seemingly also is the fan favorite. She was followed around the course by a group of high school girls on Wednesday, and she is bound to have a large Hispanic contingent this week.
'I'm trying to enjoy this as much as I can,' Ochoa said. 'I want to be at the No. 1 position hopefully for many years, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to make sure I maintain myself.'
Octagon Sports Marketing and Upper Montclair have a one-year agreement to play the Sybase Classic at Upper Montclair with multiple options for other years.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Sybase Classic