It was only a year ago when many golf fans still viewed Lorena Ochoa as an unproven commodity. While the talented native of Guadalajara, Mexico had done nothing but score victories - first in college, then on the Futures Tour, and then, most impressively, on the LPGA Tour - there was still something missing. But coming to the Old Course at St. Andrews in 2007 for the Ricoh Women's British Open, there was still a gaping hole in her resume - she hadn't won a major title.
Ochoa destroyed the field last year, of course, and enters the 2008 Open as the defending champion of the event. She also enters the tournament as the No. 1 player in 2008, the No. 1 women's player in the world and with two major titles - Ochoa added the Kraft Nabisco Championship to her resume - and 23 career titles on the LPGA Tour. In 2008, it is unanimous - while there are plenty of great players on tour, when Lorena Ochoa is playing her best, no one can touch her. And Ochoa takes her position as the best seriously.
"I know I am now in a position of influence," Ochoa told the Scotsman newspaper. "I am the No.1 in the world, and it is a responsibility I take very seriously. The game has given me so much. I have a lot of giving back to do."
Ochoa, 26, was dominant in both 2006 and 2007, racking up 14 victories including the British Open triumph. Already etched into stone for the time being as the top woman player on the globe, Ochoa has come out in 2008 blazing, adding another major and six LPGA Tour victories total against an ever-strengthening field including a resurgent Annika Sorenstam, Paula Creamer, Karrie Webb and others.
In 2008, Ochoa has shown she has the heart of a champion, as despite extra media attention, and extracurricular activities such as designing her first course and hosting her first tournament, her play has been more spectacular than at any point in her already illustrious career. Ochoa says her will to stay on top is as strong as ever.
"You don't need to be that comfortable, but at the same time, I'm learning. I'd like to stay there," said Ochoa. "I'd like to stay on the top, and I'm going to continue whatever I need to do (and have my) my motivation ... improve every week and stay at the top."
It was at the 2007 Ricoh Women's British Open at St. Andrews that Ochoa cemented her place in LPGA history. Despite coming in with questions regarding her ability to perform under pressure, Ochoa went out and destroyed the field, winning the tournament wire to wire and ultimately by four shots.
Not only did the victory send a message to the world and the media that Ochoa was capable of playing her best golf in the most important tournaments, the big win also sent a message to LPGA Tour players across the board - if you want to compete with Lorena, you need to get your game into a higher gear.
Despite her domination of the LPGA Tour, Ochoa remains one of the most well-liked and well-respected players on the tour, as her work ethic and sincere kindness - Ochoa has shown a great charitable side, especially for children in her native Mexico - make her a player to respect. Players have also seen how Ochoa has gone through a drought of attention often in her career, only recently getting sponsors. A new documentary that follows Ochoa's brilliant 2007 campaign could also add to Ochoa's luster.
Still, while it's been a year since her biggest victory, and a year that has seen even more accolades come her way, Ochoa remains the same, both on-course and off.
"I haven't changed anything. I'm not a player that really spends too much time in little details or numbers. I just get up there, and I ask for a good number, where is the best place to be, but I don't worry if there's a false front, how many yards, or if there's a bunker or if there is rough," Ochoa told reporters prior to the 2008 Ricoh's Women's British Open. "I'm very easy. I think the more you think about it, and the more you try to find answers, it will be fooling with your head. I just prefer to play it simple. I'm always prepared, and I always play to win, and I'm always 100 percent there."
July 29, 2008
William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.
Anyone looking back at the final scores of the 2009 Ricoh Women's British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's will almost certainly come to the wrong conclusion that this was a comfortable three-shot win for Catriona Matthew. It was anything but as the seemingly imperturbable Scot struggled to hit a fairway throughout the final round and was only rescued by some superb recovery shots and a bunch of astonishing long putts.
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