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Lorena Ochoa setting new targets

After winning six tournaments and the LPGA Player of the Year award in 2006, Lorena Ochoa set some new goals.

She's done a fine job of reaching them, including defending her title in the Samsung World Championship with a runaway victory Sunday for her seventh title of 2007, and wrapping up her second player of the year honor.

"It's been a great 2007. After what happened in 2006, I thought it would be hard to improve. But here I am," she said after finishing with a 6-under 66 to win by four shots over Mi Hyun Kim.

"I set some goals at the beginning of the year, and I wanted to get better, and I wanted to win more tournaments and to be better with some categories on the LPGA, and I'm doing good. So I cannot ask for anything else," Ochoa said.

Except to remain No. 1.

Asked how she plans to stay at the top, the 25-year-old Mexican star said, "I always try to be one step ahead and for that I need to keep working really hard. I think you have to have very clear goals, what you want to do and where are the places you can improve.

"There are so many places that I have room to improve -- my short game, a better feel with my putting, working on lies. I want to go home and work hard in the offseason, even harder than last year and be ready for next year."

Her game solid from tee to cup, Ochoa turned what began as a pressure-packed final round at Big Horn Golf Club into a romp on the way to her 16th career win.

She finished at 18-under 270 and earned $250,000 to push her record total to $3,318,421.

Kim closed with a 69. Angela Park, this year's rookie of the year, and Jeong Jang shot 70s to tie for third at 13 under.

Kim said that Ochoa, unlike many other players who hit the ball long, also has a fine short game.

"She is still young, but mentally good, and if she hits long, she hits a good putt. She has a lot of good things. I'm jealous," Kim said, grinning.

She added that, because Ochoa is so long off the tee, "I want to ask her, I want to get 10 yards distance from her."

Asked later if she were willing to give Kim a 10-yard advantage, Ochoa laughed and said, "No. I like her, but, no, not that much."

Ochoa began the day tied at the top with Norway's Suzann Pettersen, who beat her in a playoff a week earlier. Kim, Jang and Park all began the final round just one shot behind the co-leaders.

Ochoa was particularly deadly with her irons. She also snaked in a 15-foot birdie putt to take clear command on No. 15, and sank a couple of 10-footers for birdies during her round.

She made a 5-footer to birdie the first hole and take the lead alone and was in front until Jang birdied No. 9 to draw even at 15 under.

With several Ochoa fans perched high on rocks high above the course and waving a large Mexican flag, she moved back ahead by one shot with a birdie on No. 10, then extended her lead with birdies on Nos. 14 and 15.

She had her lone bogey of the day on 16, but bounced back to make another 10-foot birdie putt on No. 17 to stretch her lead back to four shots.

When she knocked in a 6-footer for par on the final green, Ochoa beamed, pumped her right arm, then waved to the crowd.

Pettersen, who defeated Ochoa on the second hole of a playoff last week in Danville, finished with a 72 this time that left her in fifth at 12 under.

Michelle Wie, who received a special exemption to join the field, finished with by far her best round of the tournament, a 71 for an 18-over total. She was 19 over after the first three rounds, but her good final round jumped her over Bettina Hauert into 19th place in the 20-player event. Hauert shot a 76 to go to 19 over.

A Stanford freshman who turned 18 on Thursday, Wie earned $13,125 for her 19th-place finish, more than the total of $9,899 she made in seven previous events this year.

She was pleased to finally get her game going.

"I didn't play for a while (because of wrist injuries) and it took me a lot longer than I thought to get back into the game," she said. "Definitely this was a lot better. I was really proud of myself for not giving up the whole week, that I just fought through.

"And today I just fought through the round. Obviously, I had a couple of missed shots, but I made a lot of putts and today helped me to think very positively."

She finished 17th at Big Horn last year. She would have finished fourth in 2005, when she made the tournament her pro debut, but was disqualified after the final round for signing an incorrect score card following the third round.


October 16, 2007

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