Mochrie, Ritzman storm to lead

May 13, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

WILMNGTON, Del. -- Dottie Mochrie goes into every golf tournament she plays thinking she has a legitimate chance to win. Alice Ritzman, on the other hand, goes in thinking how nice it would be to finally win.

That's what happens when you're considered one of the best players in the world, as Mochrie has been the past three years, and one of the most luckless, as Ritzman is now perceived toward the end of her 17-year career.

It's a huge difference and one that might be played out at the Du Pont Country Club during the last three rounds of the $1.1 million McDonald's LPGA Championship. But yesterday, that was the only difference between them.

During an opening-round that began with heavy rains, ended with strong winds and included a more-than-two-hour delay for a thunderstorm in the middle, Mochrie and Ritzman shared the lead at 3-under-par 68.

They are one shot ahead of Juli Inkster, playing in her first tournament since having her second child seven weeks ago, and Noelle Daghe. Five players -- including Great Britain's Laura Davies, who won here last year when it was a regular tour event -- are two shots behind at 1-under 70.

"I take it in small steps so I can be there late on Sunday afternoon," said Mochrie, 28, who will be shooting for her second victory this season, the eighth of her seven-year career and her second major championship.

Except for her victory at the Tournament of Champions in early March, Mochrie hasn't been in serious contention that much this year. She has been unable to put together back-to-back sub-par rounds very often, and has stumbled a couple of times down the stretch.

"It's been difficult to keep momentum going," said Mochrie, who despite her inconsistency is third on this year's money list ($219,871) and is looking for her fourth straight year in the top four.

"It's satisfying when you have the times when you hit it crummy and still be in contention."

That doesn't happen often to Ritzman, who has missed the cut three times in seven tournaments this year and is 40th on the money list. At 42, she has been out on the LPGA Tour longer and earned more prize money -- $1,217,542.32 to date for 34th place all-time -- than any current player who never has won.

"The game itself keeps me motivated," she said.

"This is the toughest thing I've ever done. I've never had anything as challenging as golf."

Or as painful, physically and emotionally. Despite an aching shoulder caused by two troublesome disks in her neck, Ritzman is still chasing a dream that she has come agonizingly close to fulfilling.

How close?

"This close," said Ritzman, who has lost sudden-death playoffs to Hollis Stacy, Kathy Whitworth and Betsy King. "Obviously, everyone wants to win. That's why we're out here. I have tried to address my weaknesses."

Ritzman's biggest problem always has been her short game, and it was nearly her downfall yesterday. After starting out on the back nine and birdieing the 528-yard 11th hole, Ritzman spaced out on her 18-inch tap-in for par at No. 12, missing it for bogey.

"It was a wake-up call," she said later of one of her only two bogeys.

Mochrie didn't need any such stimulation. But following the weather patterns throughout what turned into a six-hour round were interesting enough.

It made Mochrie's bogey-less round, the only one played yesterday, even more impressive.

"I think I played three different courses today," said Mochrie, who had one hole left when the siren sounded the delay. "We played the first three holes in a downpour. Then the wind blew harder and it [the storm] came out of nowhere. I guess you can say I weathered the storm."

So has Ritzman, for 17 years and 402 tournaments. But the sun still hasn't come out for her.

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