Ochoa This is the Right Time

By Randall MellApril 23, 2010, 11:01 pm
Lorena Ochoa always knew she would walk away from golf in her prime.

She knew she wanted to exit when she was on top.

She envisioned it coming as she started a new family with her life changing and the game becoming less important.
Lorena Ochoa
Lorena Ochoa has 27 career victories on the LPGA. (Getty Images)
Ochoa knew all of this, and yet she didn’t know exactly when to leave until she was standing on a tee box in Asia at the LPGA’s season openers in Thailand and Singapore two months ago.

After a hard season in 2009, when she was scrutinized for losing her edge, for winning only three titles and barely claiming her fourth Rolex Player of the Year title, Ochoa tried to rededicate herself in the winter. She did this after boosting expectations with 21 titles in the three previous years.

“I came home, and I recharged my batteries,” Ochoa said Friday near her home in Mexico City in a teleconference after announcing her retirement. “I said, `OK, I'm going to practice hard. I'm going to make sure I work hard and get ready, and I'm going to try to play one more year,’ but I want to be honest with all of you. I went to Asia, and after two or three days of being in Thailand, it was really clear to see that I didn't want to be out there. I was thinking of other things. I wanted to get home. I wanted to start working on the foundation. I wanted to be here close to my family.”

The No. 1 player in women’s golf knew that at 28 it was time for her to leave the game and devote herself even more fully to her new husband, AeroMexico executive Andres Conesa, whom she married in December. She knew then it was time to give more of herself to her three stepchildren and to the foundations she cherishes.

On the other side of the world, Ochoa could more clearly see details of the ending she always imagined. She could see the retirement she announced Friday. She will say goodbye in the Tres Marias Championship in Morelia in her beloved Mexico next week, continue to play the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in her homeland each November and maybe play an odd event here and there.

Ochoa knew in Asia that it was the right thing to do with 27 LPGA titles, two majors, four Rolex Player of the Year titles and four Vare trophies already equaling a life’s work in golf.

“Once you reach your goals, it’s hard to find motivation,” Ochoa said. “You need to be brave to see that. You need to listen to your heart and make the decision. Fortunately, it was clear to me. That’s it. My last tournament will be Morelia.”

There were no stunning revelations when Ochoa announced her retirement Friday. She left for the reasons she always said would make her leave. She just left earlier than anyone imagined.

“I'm just ready to start a new life,” she said. “I just want to be a normal person. I just want to live everyday things, to be home and to give back to my family all the time that we lost in the last few years.”

Ochoa, who emerged as a young phenom in Guadalajara to become a two-time NCAA Player of the Year at the University of Arizona, seized the No. 1 ranking from Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam on April 23, 2007. She announced her retirement exactly three years later, after 157 consecutive weeks on top. She said the pressure of being No. 1 did not weigh in her decision, though fellow players have seen her show uncharacteristic frustration in her game the last year.

“Retirement didn’t come faster [because of the pressures of being No. 1],” she said. “Maybe that’s how it looks on the outside, but it came at the right time. I never felt that pressure. It was joy and happiness for the support from media and fans.

“I’m simply making the decision today because this is the right time. This is the perfect time. I’ve always said I wanted to leave at No. 1. I’m really happy. I’ve never been this happy. I’m ready to lead my life in a different way.”

Ochoa knew in Asia that the game could no longer make her as happy as it once did. In fact, her colleagues could see the game making her unhappy. They could see little bursts of temper from one of the most good-natured players the game's ever known.

“You could sense she didn’t really want to be there,” Morgan Pressel said of her final round pairing with Ochoa at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore. “She just didn’t look like she was having as much fun as she usually does.”

Ochoa, who said she hopes to expand her family with Andres by having children together, sounded like a woman with no regrets. The frustration in Asia confirmed what she’s been struggling with the last year. She can’t give all of herself to all of the endeavors that mean so much to her. She has the Lorena Ochoa Foundation, based in Mexico and dedicated to youth, education and health causes. She also just launched the Lorena Ochoa Golf Foundation, based in the United States with an aim at bringing the benefits of the game to Latinos and others “under-represented” in the game.

“It was time to make a decision from my heart,” Ochoa said. “I never doubted it. It’s why it was easy. There are so many things I would like to do. I am happy, at peace and 100 percent complete.”
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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.

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Playoff streaks in jeopardy for Garcia, Haas

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:12 pm

Since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, only 13 players have managed to make the playoffs each and every year. But two of the PGA Tour's stalwarts head into the regular-season finale with work to do in order to remain a part of that select fraternity.

Sergio Garcia has rarely had to sweat the top-125 bubble, but the Spaniard enters this week's Wyndham Championship 131st in the current standings. Left with even more work to do is former FedExCup winner Bill Haas, who starts the week in Greensboro 150th.

Garcia got off to a strong start in the spring, sandwiching a pair of top-10 finishes in WGC events around a fourth-place showing at the Valspar Championship. But quality results largely dried up after Garcia missed the cut at the Masters; he has made only two cuts in 10 Tour starts since April, including early exits in all four majors.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Garcia has some history at Sedgefield Country Club, having won this event in 2012 to break a lengthy U.S. victory drought. He also finished fourth in 2009 but hasn't played the Donald Ross layout since a T-29 finish as the defending champ in 2013.

It's been a difficult year for Haas both on and off the course, as the veteran was involved as a passenger in a car accident on the eve of the Genesis Open that killed the driver. He returned to action three weeks later in Tampa, and he tied for seventh at the RBC Heritage in April. But that remains his lone top-10 finish of the season. Haas has missed 11 cuts including three in a row.

While the bubble will be a fluid target this week at Sedgefield, Garcia likely needs at least a top-20 finish to move into the top 125 while Haas will likely need to finish inside the top 5.

One of the 13 playoff streaks is assured of ending next week, as Luke Donald has missed most of the year with a back injury. Other players to qualify for every Tour postseason include Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore.

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Airlines lose two sets of Olesen's clubs in 10 days

By Grill Room TeamAugust 15, 2018, 7:50 pm

Commercial airlines losing the golf clubs of a professional golfer is not exactly a groundbreaking story. It happens.

But European Tour pro Thorbjorn Olesen is on quite the roll, losing two sets of clubs and five suitcases in the span of 10 days.

Olesen, the reigning Italian Open champ, claimed his primary set of golf clubs were lost last week. Having little faith they'd be found before this week's Nordea Masters, he decided to bring his backup set for the event in Sweden.

A veteran move by the 28-year-old, unless, of course, those clubs were lost too. And wouldn't you know it:

After pestering the airlines with some A+ GIFs, Olesen was reunited with at least one of his sets and was back in action on Wednesday.

He also still plans on giving his golf bag away to some lucky follower, provided it's not lost again in transit. Something he's no longer taking for granted.

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Podcast: Brandel compares Tiger and Hogan's comebacks

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 15, 2018, 6:48 pm

Tiger Woods on Sunday at Bellerive recorded his seventh runner-up finish in a major and his first in nine years.

A favorite guest of the Golf Channel Podcast, Brandel Chamblee joins host Will Gray to compare and contrast Tiger's return to competitive golf with that of Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the 1950s.

Chamblee also discusses Brooks Koepka's major dominance, Bellerive as a major venue, Tiger and Phil as Ryder Cup locks, and who else might be in line to receive Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn's remaining captain's picks.

Finally, Brandel shares what it was it was like to qualify for the Senior Open Championship and compete for a major title on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Listen here: