Changing of the guard? Ochoa topples Sorenstam

October 16th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Changing of the guard? Ochoa topples Sorenstam

Palm Desert, CA (Sports Network) - Lorena Ochoa overcame a three-shot deficit on Sunday by firing a seven-under 65 to best Annika Sorenstam and win the Samsung World Championship. Ochoa finished at 16-under-par 272 and won by two over the No. 1-ranked player on the LPGA Tour.
"I'm excited," said Ochoa. "It's great to be here with my friends and family. Finally winning here in Palm Desert, it feels great."
Ochoa collected her fifth victory on the season and the $131,250 first-place padded her lead on the LPGA Tour money list. She also moved closer to securing the Player of the Year honors with her eighth title all-time on the LPGA Tour.
Perhaps most importantly for Ochoa, who won last week in her native Mexico, is that she beat Sorenstam heads up. Of Ochoa's four previous wins this season, Sorenstam was in the field for only one.
While Sorenstam, the two-time defending champion, did not have a Tiger Woods' like record with the 54-hole lead, it was still impressive. She had only lost a three-shot lead with one round to play six times in her career before Sunday.
Ochoa, more than anyone, knew the pressure coming into the final round.
"I knew I needed to be 100 percent on every shot," said Ochoa. "I fought with all of my heart. It's been a fun battle. She knows I can do it. I know I can do it."
Ochoa wasted little time in cutting into the margin as she sank a 25-foot birdie putt at the first. Sorenstam answered at the next with a six-footer for birdie to reclaim her three-shot lead, but Ochoa kept coming back thanks to her flat stick.
At the par-five third, Ochoa ran home a 30-foot eagle putt, while Sorenstam made birdie to cut the gap to two. Ochoa drained a 20-foot birdie putt at five and Sorenstam missed from six feet to tie the pair at 13-under par.
That tie was short-lived. Sorenstam holed an eight-foot birdie putt at seven and hit a six-iron to eight feet to set up birdie at the ninth. The Swede moved two ahead, but another two-shot swing awaited.
It came at the 10th when Ochoa slammed in a 40-footer for birdie and Sorenstam could not get up and down from a bunker. The two were tied again and this time Ochoa moved ahead.
At the 11th, Ochoa hit her approach inside five feet, while Sorenstam could only get his ball to settle 35 feet from the stick. Ochoa converted her birdie putt and Sorenstam two-putted for par to fall one off the lead.
The cushion was padded for Ochoa at the par-five 15th. Sorenstam elected not to go at the green in two and her third barely cleared the water in front of the putting surface. Ochoa knocked her third to 18 feet and made the birdie putt. Sorenstam took three to get down from in front of the green and now Ochoa was three in front.
Sorenstam got one back at the 16th as her 23-foot birdie putt found the bottom of the cup. She holed a clutch six-footer for par at 17, but missed a birdie try at 18.
Sorenstam would have had to birdie all three of her final holes, because Ochoa was unflappable down the stretch. Ochoa's speed was good on all three of her birdie tries and only at 17, where she made a four-footer, was she challenged for par.
Ochoa not only distanced herself from Sorenstam in the two major races, she also cost Sorenstam another chance to put her name in the LPGA Tour history books.
A win on Sunday by Sorenstam would have been 70th and put her 18 off the all- time lead of Kathy Whitworht. If Sorenstam would have hosited the trophy, she would have become the first player in tour history to win the same events six times.
Sorenstam will have another chance to win the same event six times next month at the Mizuno Classic. She already owns an LPGA Tour record thanks to that event because she has won it five years in a row, which is the record for most consecutive wins at the same event.
Sophie Gustafson, the 2003 champion, shot a three-under 69 and finished alone in third place at 11-under-par 277. Stacy Prammanasudh shot a two-under 70 on Sunday for fourth at minus-nine, two shots better than Paula Creamer, who managed a one-under 71 in round four.
Juli Inkster fired a seven-under 65 and tied for sixth place with Cristie Kerr, who posted a one-over 73 on Sunday. The pair came in at five-under-par 283.
Rookie of the Year Seon-Hwa Lee (71), Pat Hurst (71) and reigning Women's British Open champion Sherri Steinhauer (74) tied for eighth place at minus- four. Michelle Wie never got anything going this week and Sunday was no different. She struggled to a three-over 75 and came in 17th place at five-over-par 293.

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