Originally created 10/07/04

Ochoa strives for stardom



The next LPGA Tour superstar might just be Mexico's 22-year-old Lorena Ochoa.

Many tour veterans think she'll be the likely successor to Annika Sorenstam when the Swede retires within the next few years, as she has stated.

"That's my dream, to be the No. 1 player in the world ... in two years, three years or 10 years," Ochoa said Wednesday, on the eve of the Asahi Ryokuken International Championship.

"I'm going to work hard to get there," Ochoa said. "If I get there, I know it's a big responsibility, but I'll take it and enjoy it."

On Wednesday, veteran Rosie Jones was asked to name a young player who she thinks will be the tour's next dominant star.

"Ochoa," Jones said, without hesitation. "I think she's going to be a great player."

Jones said the fact that Ochoa didn't win last year as a rookie, but has now won twice this year, might have been beneficial for her.

"Her success is coming at a slow rate, where she absorbs that and welcomes it," Jones said. "When you're faced with success so fast and furious, you almost want to shield yourself from the attention. I think that's what happened to Annika for a long time."

The LPGA Tour is also putting its support behind Ochoa, a Guadalajara, Mexico, resident who is third on the money list this season.

Last week, the tour announced that it will return to Mexico for a regular tournament for the first time in 30 years. The MasterCard Classic will be played in Mexico City on March 4-6, 2005.

Ochoa, the only Mexican golfer on the LPGA Tour, attended the news conference in Mexico, where she is a national sports hero.

"I was very excited (about the annoucement)," Ochoa said. "It's a dream come true for me to play in Mexico, to have my own crowd and have people finally watch me play.

"They always follow my career and know where I am and how I'm doing," Ochoa said.

Ochoa tees off today at 9 a.m., on No. 10.

LOW RIDER: If Anna Acker-Macosko picks up where she left off, expect a low score today. In her last start, in the final round of the Longs Drugs Classic on Sept. 26, Acker-Macosko shot 12-under-par 60, one shot off Sorenstam's LPGA Tour 18-hole record.

Acker-Macosko, who goes off at 1:20 p.m. today on No. 10, had 11 birdies in her first 16 holes in the Longs Drugs Challenge at Lincoln Hills Club in Lincoln, Calif. She had birdie chances on Nos. 17 and 18 to break 60 but couldn't convert.

The tie for fifth in that tournament moved Acker-Macosko up 94th on the money list. The top 90 after this week's tournament earn their playing card for 2005.

DOWNSIZING: The purse for the fourth annual event at Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club has dropped this year. The overall purse has gone from $1.3 million last year to $1 million this year. The winner's share of the prize is now $150, 000 compared with the $195,000 Jones won in 2003.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.