Originally created 11/12/06

Ochoa closes in on top honor



MOBILE, Ala. - Lorena Ochoa moved into position to wrap up the LPGA Tour player of the year race and win her sixth title of the season, shooting 9-under-par 63 on Saturday to take a five-stroke lead in the LPGA Tournament of Champions.

The 24-year-old Mexican star, seeking her third consecutive victory, needs a win today to capture the player of the year points race and become the first player other than Annika Sorenstam or Karrie Webb to secure the honor since 1996.

"This is a really big tournament for me because of that," Ochoa said about clinching the award before facing Sorenstam and Webb next week in the season-ending ADT Championship. "I think it will be a lot easier to get that done, player of the year. This is a tough tournament, tough competition and the golf course is playing tough.

Ochoa had a 14-under 202 total on Magnolia Grove's Crossings Course.

Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, who started the day tied for the lead with Moira Dunn, was in third place at 7-under 209 after shooting 73.

TAIHEIYO MASTERS: In Gotemba, Japan, Sergio Garcia fell out of the lead, dropping four strokes back after 13 holes before darkness forced the suspension of the third round.

Garcia had bogeys on Nos. 3 and 9 at the Gotemba Course and was tied for sixth on the 14th hole when play was stopped.

Makoto Inoue of Japan was on top of the leaderboard at 11 under after 16 holes.

MERRILL LYNCH SHOOTOUT: In Naples, Fla., long-hitters John Daly and J.B. Holmes shot 10-under-par 62 in the best-ball round to take a one-stroke lead over two teams in the Merrill Lynch Shootout.

Daly and Holmes, who opened with 63 on Friday in the modified alternate shot round, had 19-under 125 total on the Tiburon Golf Club course.

Jerry Kelly and Rod Pampling matched Daly and Holmes with 62 to join Justin Leonard and Scott Verplank (63) at 18 under.

The featured foursome of Greg Norman and partner Nick Faldo, and Annika Sorenstam and Fred Couples struggled. Sorenstam and Couples shot 71, and Norman and Faldo shot 72 - leaving the teams 11th and 12th.

NATIONWIDE TOUR: In Richmond, Texas, PGA Tour winner Matt Kuchar took a three-stroke lead in the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship, holing a 30-foot eagle putt and a 40-foot birdie chip en route to 5-under-par 67.

Kuchar was at 13-under 209 total on The Houstonian course. Boo Weekley was second after a 68.

Former Thomson resident Franklin Langham shot 77 and is tied for 49th at 222. Former Augusta State golfer Richard Johnson shot 79 and is tied for 58th at 227.

The top 22 finishers on the money list after today's final round earn PGA Tour cards.