Ochoa's surge hides her stumble

McDonald's LPGA Championship Notebook

June 06, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

Lorena Ochoa likes to say she is human, but her accomplishments over the past few years might make the 26-year-old from Mexico seem otherworldly, at least on the golf course.

In yesterday's opening round of the McDonald's LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock Golf Course, Ochoa showed on one hole that she can play like any other hacker from Havre de Grace. On the other 17, she demonstrated why she's the best female player on the planet.

Starting on the back nine, Ochoa drove her ball on the par-4 13th into high and heavy grass. Unable to play her next shot and forced to drop in the 11th fairway, Ochoa double-bogeyed.

But she recovered to play the rest of the round in 5-under-par to shoot a 3-under 69.

"I'm really happy," Ochoa said shortly after finishing the round, which left her three shots off the lead. "All of a sudden, you double-bogey and feel good just to be on the scoreboard 2-over-par. Sure had to fight hard and do some catch-up."

Ochoa said having the double bogey early in the round, and early in the tournament, was to her benefit.

"I knew I had a lot of holes left and three par-5s," she said. "I didn't get too stressed."

Looking to win her third straight major championship overall, and her second straight this year, Ochoa got off to a better start than last year, when she shot a pair of 71s the first two days and wound up tied for sixth, six shots behind Suzann Pettersen of Norway.

"That makes a big difference, if not leading the tournament, to be one or two shots behind," Ochoa said.

Webb recovers

Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, who missed a short putt to force a playoff Sunday with Seon Hwa Lee at the Ginn Tribute Hosted By Annika, seemed to still be thinking about that when she started play yesterday.

In a group with Ochoa and Morgan Pressel, Webb bogeyed her first two holes and double-bogeyed the next. Distracted by a photographer, Webb put her tee shot in the water on the par-3 12th. She asked to get the photographer removed.

Webb then got her game together, and she finished the round at 1-under 71.

"I got off to about the same kind of start at the U.S. Open last year, and I didn't recover," Webb recalled of a round that turned into an 83 and led to her missing the cut at Pine Needles. "I'm glad I was able to change that today.'`

Gustafson struggles

Sophie Gustafson, who watched a six-stroke lead going into the final round of last week's event disintegrate during a 79 on Sunday, shot a 77 yesterday that included a 41 on the back nine.

"I don't think that was an issue," Gustafson said about a potential carryover. "I'm just working on a couple of things with my swing."

On the practice tee later in the day, Gustafson seemed to get some of the problems worked out. At one point, she and Pettersen got into a little bit of a long-driving contest, with Gustafson winning easily.

Pettersen recalled their time together on the European Tour when she was playing one day with Gustafson.

"I hooked it really far left, and she said, `I've hooked it even further left, I'll show you how to get out,' " Pettersen said with a laugh.

Chip shots

The announced attendance of 17,625 was the largest (by 25 spectators) for an opening round since the tournament moved to Bulle Rock in 2005. ... Today is Harford County Day, with giveaways and exhibitions at the county's booth. Tomorrow is Military Appreciation Day, and all active and retired military personnel will be admitted free.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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