Originally created 04/03/02

Ochoa tries to keep streak alive



RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Lorena Ochoa of Mexico was within two strokes of the lead during the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Her goal was to win, but she was all smiles with a top-10 finish in a major.

Now, the sophomore at Arizona resumes her quest for a perfect 10.

Ochoa has won all six college tournaments she has played this year, and goes after No. 7 starting Friday at the Ping/ASU Invitational. After that, she has the Pac-10 Championship, NCAA regionals and NCAA Championship.

Is it possible to go 10-for-10?

"My goals have to be possible to make them," she said. "I know I can do it. Those four tournaments, I want to make sure I'm ready for them."

Ochoa already has shown she is ready for the LPGA Tour.

She spent the last three weeks playing on sponsor's exemptions, and contended on Sunday in Tucson (tie for fifth) and the Nabisco, where she wound up five strokes behind Annika Sorenstam. Her eighth-place finish was the best by an amateur in 14 years.

"She had no fear whatsoever," said Sorenstam, who played with Ochoa in the third round. "It was fun to see her hit some shots. Even though she's an amateur, she sure doesn't behave like one. She's playing at a professional level."

Many suspect this will be Ochoa's last year at Arizona, although she said she wants to see how she finishes the year.

Along with shooting for a perfect season, Ochoa is trying to become the first female college golfer to finish with a scoring average below 70. Her five-stroke victory last month in the Wildcat Invitational, where she finished at 9-under 207, lowered her average to 69.76.

In six victories, she is 34-under par.

Ochoa grew up in Guadalajara and has worked just as hard on learning English as she has on the golf course, using flash cards and television to speed up the process. Her emotion on the golf course is captivating.

During the final round of the Nabisco, she pitched from under the trees toward the ninth green and sprinted up the fairway, much like Sergio Garcia in the PGA Championship at Medinah.

"I watch him a lot," she said.

No, she doesn't go through countless waggles and re-grips, although she has a peculiar move of bobbing her head at impact. No one can argue with the results.

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A LOOK TO THE FUTURE: The PGA of America announced Tuesday that the Ryder Cup will be played at Hazeltine - in 2016.

How far away is that?

The captains for those matches will probably be Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood.

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END OF THE DROUGHT: Vijay Singh's victory in the Houston Open ended his longest drought since he joined the PGA Tour nine years ago, a stretch of 49 tournaments dating to the 2000 Masters.

He's not alone. In all but one season dating to 1995, at least one major championship winner has gone through a similar spell.

Paul Lawrie ('99 British Open) didn't win again until the Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews late last year. Mark O'Meara hasn't won on the PGA Tour since his British Open victory in 1998. Mark Brooks hasn't won since the 1996 PGA Championship.

Two of the major winners from 1995 - Ben Crenshaw (Masters) and John Daly (British Open) - still haven't won on tour since then, while Steve Elkington (PGA) didn't win again until 1997 at Doral.

The exception was in 1997, when all four major winners won again the next year. Of course, Tiger Woods only won once, his worst season on tour.

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MAKING THE ROUNDS: PGA Tour members are independent contractors, able to play wherever and whenever they want, as long as they meet the minimum required number of tournaments. That soon won't be the case on the LPGA Tour.

Starting next year, those who finish in the top 90 on the LPGA money list will be required to play every tournament at least once every four years.

"I don't think that's asking too much," said Lorie Kane of Canada, who played at least 30 events her first four years on tour. "We're not independent contractors, we're members of an association, and we have a responsibility to that association."

Commissioner Ty Votaw said the policy is in line with the LPGA's "Fans First" initiative that came out of last month's summit in Phoenix.

"Our customers in this context are the tournaments," he said. "If you're not going to go to a tournament at least once every four years, you're ignoring that customer, which is essential for our future growth."

What happens if a top player doesn't follow the rule?

"I have four years to determine what the penalty is," Votaw said.

Last year, there were only four tournaments that didn't have any of the top three players - Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak and Karrie Webb. The PGA Tour had nine tournaments last year that did not include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or David Duval.

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DIVOTS: The PGA of America has created the Paul Runyan Collegiate Golf Management Scholarship, worth $5,000 each year to a junior in one of the PGA's golf management programs at 13 colleges. Runyan, a two-time PGA champion, died two weeks ago. ... Tiger Woods wasn't the first player to sweep four professional majors. Mickey Wright won the U.S. Women's Open and the LPGA Championship to finish off the 1961 season, then won the Titleholders and the Western Open early in the '62 season. ... Woods has improved in one statistical category this year. He is ranked No. 1 in sand saves, up from No. 80 a year ago. ... The Office Depot Championship is the only LPGA Tour event where the winner gets a car - a Hyundai Tiburon.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Vijay Singh broke the 72-hole scoring record at the Houston Open that was set in 1980. The oldest tournament scoring record is at the Canadian Open, where Johnny Palmer's record of 263 at St. Charles in Winnipeg has stood since 1952.

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FINAL WORD: "Beth Daniel told me that I'm finally old enough to be commissioner." - LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw, who turned 40 last month.