Lorena And Everybody Else

By Brian HewittApril 2, 2008, 4:00 pm
RANCHO MIRAGE, Ca. -- The LPGA, once again, has reached parity with the PGA TOUR in the state of its pre-major prognostication processes.
 
That is to say on the eve of the 2008 Kraft Nabisco Championship the question is not WHO the favorite to win the first big womens event of the year. The question is FROM WHOM will come the sternest challenge to Lorena Ochoa, the overwhelming favorite to capture her second major and her third victory in four tries so far this season.
 
Used to be Annika Sorenstam was the player to beat on the LPGA. But she got injured last year and Ochoa got hot, winning eight times. So in the heavy favorite category Mexicos Ochoa is the now the Tiger Woods of womens golf.
 
But it is impossible to ignore the fact that she hasnt won this event. Yet.
 
Last year she was tied for the lead after 36 holes and saw her hopes dashed on the 17th hole of the third round when she made a quadruple bogey 7--that included a whiff in thick greenside rough--that effectively dashed her hopes.
 
No, Ochoa said this week, I dont even think on that. I already erased them. I only feel good things about this course. And good vibes. And good memories.
 
One of those good vibes was an opening 62 to set the course record in the first round here in 2006. Alas for Ochoa, she lost in a playoff to Karrie Webb.
 
Sorenstam showed up at Mission Hills Country Club last year and announced she felt good about her swing. Then she went out and fired a 75-76 and barely made the cut. Only later did we find out she was nursing back and neck injuries.
 
Sorenstam, now ranked No. 2 in the world behind Ochoa, is, according to her people, almost all the way back to full physical strength. She won the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay and in four 2008 events she has not finished out of the top 10
 
Perhaps the least-known, of the best challengers is Korean Jee Young Lee who finished second to Ochoa last week in Arizona at the Safeway International. The long-hitting Lee started slowly this season with no top 20s in her first four tournaments.
 
But it is impossible to ignore her record in the four majors last year'T-13 at Kraft Nabisco; T-10 at the LPGA Championship; seventh at the U.S. Womens Open and T-2 at the Womens British Open. Lee wound up second in driving distance on the LPGA last year, Ochoa third.
 
Suzann Pettersen (McDonalds LPGA) and Cristie Kerr (U.S. Womens Open) both won majors last year. Pettersen was also one of several players who melted down Sunday here last year. Both are on the short list of players with realistic hopes of challenging Ochoa.
 
World No. 4 Paula Creamer probably now holds the dubious distinction of being the best player never to have won a major. Creamer won the Fields Open in Hawaii last month and arrived in California fresh from practice sessions at her home course'Isleworth near Orlando'the same track Tiger Woods is currently using to spruce up his game for next weeks Masters.
 
Creamer was perfectly poised Sunday at last years Kraft Nabisco until she skied to a final round 78 and a T-15. My patience, and I think it was more my maturity, got in the way on Sunday last year trying to force things when, in reality, I didnt need to, she said.
 
Creamer, it should be pointed out, is still just 21 years old. But the games of many of the best players seem to grow up faster than they used to on the LPGA. When Morgan Pressel won here last year she was, at 18, the youngest female major winner ever.
 
Last week at Safeway Pressel got under the weather and missed the cut. Meanwhile she sounds more like a veteran every day. Its scary to think there are girls out here who are looking up to me, she said Tuesday.
 
But the fact is, everybody in womens golf is looking up to Ochoa these days. And Ochoa, in her spare time, looks up to Woods, who she met briefly at last years Masters.
 
He said, like, good playing, hi, congratulations, Ochoa said. And he just gave me a big smile, said good luck in the tournament and goodbye. So, no, I havent had a chance to talk to him.
 
But clearly she endeavors to emulate him. Thats what Im trying to do, Ochoa said. .Im there to win.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
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    Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

    Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.


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    Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

    Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

    But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

    Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

    “It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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    After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

    In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

    No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

    Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

    “I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

    Let it go.

    Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

    “I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

    It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

    During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

    Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

    “It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

    McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

    It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

    “I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

    The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

    Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

    The only thing left to do?

    Let it go.

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    Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 1:23 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.

    Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.

    Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    There is, however, one running wager.

    “Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”

    Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.

    Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.

    “I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.