Ochoa, Sorenstam In The Hunt
June 8, 2008
By Andrew Blair
Havre de Grace, Md. -- It was an uncomfortable day
weather-wise and for Lorena Ochoa
The world's No. 1-ranked player, pursuing a second straight
major championship, at times looked somewhat human in Saturday's
humid third round at the McDonald's LPGA Championship. She shot
an even-par 72 as temperatures climbed above 100 degrees at Bulle
Rock Golf Club, near Baltimore.
South Korean Jee Young Lee had a third-day 7-under 65 and was
12 under for the championship, a shot ahead of Swede Maria
The top two players on the Beltway-jammed leaderboard have
plenty of company, including Ochoa. Three-time Women's Open
champion Annika Sorenstam, who posted her second straight round
of 68 and is tied with Ochoa at 10 under, was two off Lee's
Aiming for her second major of the season, a third straight
overall and a possible Grand Slam, Ochoa got off to a conspicuous
start. She three-putted for bogey at the par-4 first hole. Things
nearly totally unraveled at the par-3 seventh, where Ochoa pulled
her tee shot into thick mounding left of the green. She took
nearly a full swing to dislodge the ball. But as if Lucy were
pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, the clump of grass
from her aggressive swing went farther as the ball moved only a
It ultimately resulted in a double bogey.
Even with a birdie at the par-5 eighth, Ochoa turned in two
over for the day. Seemingly and understandably struggling to get
comfortable on the sweltering day, she responded and started the
back nine with birdies at Nos. 10 and 12 to offset a bogey at No.
Unlike Big Brown, Ochoa had a small, but needed late rally
ready, knocking in a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th to
partially savage her round. Another major victory and a place in
history was clearly within grasp of the 26-year-old.
"I'm just glad that I came back and finished with the
same number, 10 under, and I'm only two shots behind," said
Ochoa. "If they would have asked meâ€¦earlier in the week if I
would take this position, I would take it."
She called Friday's second round in which she shot 65 and had
a host of makeable birdie opportunities an "easy
Ochoa had another description in mind following Saturday's
"Very hard," she quipped. "The
Admittedly waiting for the putter to warm up, Sorenstam began
the day four shots off Ochoa's lead, but birdied three of the
first six holes to assert herself again. She converted
back-to-back birdies at Nos. 2 and 3 as her putter warmed,
knocking in putts of 12 and 28 feet. She holed in a 7-footer at
the par-4 sixth to get back into contention, added another on the
inward half at No. 15 and played bogey-free.
She'll have a chance at her first major since triumphing in
the Women's Open at Newport (R.I.) Country Club in '06.
"During majors, you have to kind of go through the minor
challenges out there," said Sorenstam, who announced earlier
this year that she will retire from competitive golf following
the season. "I've done it before and this is what I live
for. The key in majors, by the end of the day, is not how it's
done; you have to get it done and that's what I have to do
Sorenstam knows she'll make one tactical change Sunday when
temperatures are supposed to again near triple-digits.
"I'm not going to wear a brown top tomorrow, something
light," she laughed.
The long-hitting Lee overcame a double bogey at the par-4
fifth to birdie three of the final four holes on the front nine
(Nos. 6, 8 and 9) and get to eight under. She surged late,
playing the last four holes in four under. She started the
stretch by draining a 15-footer for eagle at the par-5 15th,
before adding late birdies at Nos. 16 and 18.
"I've been waiting to win a tournament ever since I came
to the United States, and to win a major tournament here would be
exciting for me," she said through an interpreter. "And
I'm really looking forward to winning this tournament."
Hjorth, who began the day six shots off Ochoa's pace, went
without a bogey and played the outward half in five under. That
included reeling off four straight birdies from Nos. 6-9 to close
the front nine. Hjorth found the right formula in the steamy
"The heat comes with it," she said. "As long as
you try to drink and not think about it too much, it worked for
Seven players were within four shots of the top spot,
including former Curtis Cupper Brittany Lang (71), who is at
8-under 208. She surged early by making three early birdies, was
at 10 under and tied for the lead, but made bogey at No. 10 and
double at the par-4 13th, before answering with a closing
The late response marked significant progress for the
confident McKinney, Texas, native. She said a big number would
have derailed her during the '07 campaign, which saw her make
only 15 cuts in 27 events. Lang can be excused if she's grown
used to the spoils of success; she won her first tournament when
she was 10.
"I don't think there were any other females in the
tournament, though," laughed Lang, who scored a hole-in-one
during the round at Brandermill Country Club in Richmond, Va.
Later, she took to beating a host of the nation's top women's
amateurs, winning the Women's Western, the North and South as
well as a host of AJGA events. She played at Duke for two years
before turning professional in 2005.
This season, with the help of a new swing coach, Lang's
refined her already-powerful swing and, more significant, she
said, improved her mental outlook. The results have shown in
improved ball striking and with the help of caddie and brother,
Luke, a better approach when adversity inevitably hits on the
golf course as it did on the back nine Friday.
"I didn't look back on [the double] one time," said
Lang, who owns two top-six finishes on tour this season,
including a tie for second at Sybase two weeks ago.
The well-built Lang may be a large part of the future American
women's golf has been longing for.
In Pursuit Of History
With a win tomorrow and at the Women's Open later this month
at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., Ochoa could become
only the third player in history to holding all four professional
major trophies at the same time, an accomplishment realized only
by Tiger Woods and Mickey Wright.
She'll chase history with the ever-competitive Sorenstam one
grouping ahead on Sunday at the LPGA Championship.
"I probably would have liked to have played with
Annika," said Ochoa. "I think it would have been
funâ€¦for us. It will be important to get a good start and to put
my name up there."
Andrew Blair is a Virginia-based freelance writer whose work
has previously appeared on usga.org.