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Ochoa Headlines in Native Mexico

2006 Corona Morelia ChampionshipMORELIA, Michoacn, Mexico ' The Corona Morelia Championship returns to Morelia, Mexico, this week where Carin Koch will attempt to become just the second player this season to successfully defend her title.
This is also the last chance for players to make a move on the ADT Official Money List as the top-90 players after Sunday will be granted exempt status for the 2007 season and players ranked 91 st to 125 will receive non-exempt status. It is also the final Points Event in the LPGA Playoffs 2006 to gain entry into the $1 million-to-the-winner ADT Championship.
Koch claimed a six-stroke victory over Karine Icher at the 2005 inaugural tournament. The Swede was the only player to keep all four rounds under par as she recorded 68-69-71-71=279 (-9) to claim her first Tour win since 2001 and the $150,000 first-place check. Meanwhile, after a 1-over-par 73 first round, Icher steadily climbed the leaderboard, finishing at 3-under-par and in second place.
Located in the heart of Mexico, Morelia is the midway point between Mexico City heading northwest to Guadalajara. The par-73 course at the Tres Maras Residential Golf Club will challenge players with its mountainous terrain and high elevations, while playing to a difficult 6,600 yards.
Guadalajara-native Lorena Ochoa leads the field and will be the undeniable gallery favorite. As the only Mexican player on Tour, Ochoa has been a golf icon in Mexico since earning the 2003 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year title. Ochoa also has a chance this week to become only the second player in Tour history (after world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam) to earn more than $2 million in a season, as she has $1,974,122 to date. A good showing will also extend her nine-point lead over Karrie Webb in the race for Rolex Player of the Year. In 21 events this season, Ochoa has posted 16 top-10 finishes, which means it is very likely she will improve on her 5-over-par 293 tie for 16 th in 2005.
Sophia Sheridan, a 22-year-old sponsor exemption also from Guadalajara, will make her LPGA debut as a professional this week. Sheridan was a standout member of the University of California-Berkeley women's golf team and, on the Duramed Futures Tour, posted three top-10 finishes in 11 events this summer. The Corona Morelia Championship is Sheridan's third LPGA Tour event this year after finishing as the low amateur at the MasterCard Classic Honoring Alejo Peralta in March with a tie for 27 th. She also played in the U.S. Women's Open conducted by the USGA but did not make the cut.
While Mexico hones in on their homeland favorites, other players will be making moves to claim their share of the $1 million purse. Mi Hyun Kim has seven LPGA Tour victories, including two this season, to rank fifth on the ADT Official Money List. Standing barely over 5-feet tall, the diminutive Kim is 141 st on Tour with a 242-yard driving average, but owns a top-10 rank in 10 additional categories: Rolex Player of the Year (fifth, 123 points); scoring average (seventh, 70.7237); rounds under par (sixth, 60.5 percent); rounds in the 60s (fifth, 38.2 percent); birdies (ninth, 270); top-10 finishes (sixth, 12 of 23 events); driving accuracy (fifth, 79.8 percent); scoring average (seventh, 70.72); putting average (fifth, 28.83); and GIR putting average (sixth, 1.76).
American Natalie Gulbis was the first-round leader in 2005 after setting a tournament record with a 6-under-par 66, but a 3-over-par 75 in the second round followed by 72-74 on the weekend left her in a tie for fifth. Gulbis' best finish of this season has been a runner-up to Kim after a three-hole, sudden-death playoff at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic Presented by Kroger. Her strong start at the 2005 Corona Morelia Championship combined with another year of experience on Tour may be what it takes for Gulbis to make her winner's circle debut this week.
Sitting in 12 th and just ahead of Gulbis on the ADT Official Money List is Paula Creamer. Creamer has spent the majority of the season battling a wrist injury, but has still posted an impressive nine top-10 finishes in 22 starts. Although winless in her sophomore year on Tour, Creamer has earned more than $800,000 this season with nearly two more months to play.
The Corona Morelia Championship is the 20 th and final Points Event of the LPGA Playoffs 2006, which means the top-20 finishers this week will earn double points toward second-half qualifying for the ADT Championship in November. Of the players in the field this week, Morgan Pressel is third with 90 points and less than 20 points behind fellow Tour rookie Jee Young Lee (108 points). Stacy Prammanasudh is in fourth place (86 points) in the ADT Points race.
During the second half of the LPGA Playoffs 2006, Sherri Steinhauer has automatically qualified with her Major Event win at the Weetabix Women's British Open. Karrie Webb won the Evian Masters'a Winner Event'in which the winner also automatically qualifies for the ADT Championship. Webb initially qualified during the first half of the LPGA Playoffs 2006, so the spot will be filled by top-points earners after The Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions, also a Winner Event, along with the Samsung World Championship. The top cumulative ADT Points earner from the three Global Group events'Honda LPGA Thailand 2006, Kolon Hanna Bank Classic and Mizuno Classic'will fill the last of the three automatic-entry spots that remain.
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