On Tiger's tail?

O, BY THE WAY

LPGA star dominating in Woods-like way

Lorena Ochoa

April 15, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

While Tiger Woods' quest for a Grand Slam was nipped in the bud by South African Trevor Immelman at the Masters, a much more quiet supremacy continued elsewhere in the golf world.

Lorena Ochoa, the 26-year-old Mexican superstar, was lapping the field at the Corona Championship in Morelia, Mexico. She won the tournament at 25-under-par - 11 strokes better than the second-place finisher.

It also qualified her for the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame, although she can't be inducted until she has been on the tour for 10 years - which for her would happen in 2012.

Ochoa's eligibility for the Hall (which includes just 22 player members and one honorary member) is sealed, however, because she has accumulated 27 points, the total needed for induction. A player accrues points by winning tournaments and major awards. Ochoa has won 21 tournaments, including two majors, since joining the tour in 2003.

The numbers on Ochoa are staggering - Tiger-esque, in fact:

She has won four of five tour events she has entered this year, 18 over the past three years and the past two majors.

For her five-plus season career, during which she has played in 129 tournaments, Ochoa has placed in the top three 51 times (39.5 percent).

She has reached several career money plateaus (including $10 million last year) faster than any other player in LPGA history, and she has continued a torrid pace this year. She has surpassed $1 million in five events - becoming the fastest to hit that mark for a season in tour history.

The raw data on her skills explains why. Ochoa has a drive average of nearly 280 yards. She also hits 80 percent of her greens in regulation, and once she gets there, she takes an average of 1.73 putts to close.

I'm not contending that comparing PGA and LPGA statistics is apples to apples, but consider this: Ochoa's greens in regulation and driving accuracy numbers are better than Woods' so far this year, and her putting average is about the same. And Woods is having a pretty decent 2008 himself with three championships and a second-place finish at the Masters.

What is a closer comparison is how these two match up against their competition.

Tiger is Tiger, and there is no more dominant athlete in any sport.

That said, there is no question that Ochoa, in her own quiet, understated way, is just as towering a figure in her own universe.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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