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Lorena Ochoa aims to end winless streak

Lorena Ochoa takes another streak into the LPGA Tour’s Navistar Classic. For a change, she’s trying to end this one.

Ochoa, set to begin play Thursday on Capitol Hill’s Senator Course, is making her first start since the Safeway Classic on Aug. 24 and is winless in seven events.

“It’s been challenging in the last months, that I didn’t get any wins,” Ochoa said. “So it would be nice to start that roll again.”

She spent much of the past month at home in Mexico trying to regain the form that helped her win six of her first nine starts this year, including four straight.

Maria Hjorth snapped Ochoa’s three-tournament winning streak last year on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail course in suburban Montgomery, picking up her first LPGA Tour winner’s check in eight years.

That makes Ochoa’s slump seem minor, especially considering she has four consecutive top-seven finishes. Ochoa said she has put in extra work on her short game and thinks she has found “something important in my putting stroke that will help me.”

“I’m just making sure I finish the season strong,” she said. “That’s the way I want to finish. But there will always be motivation. There are always things that I would like to achieve.”

Hjorth finds herself back in the unfamiliar role of defending champion. She has four top-10 finishes and more than $500,000 in earnings this year.

“It’s always great to be back and being able to defend the title,” she said. “It’s a great feeling. I have a lot of positive memories, of course, coming back to a course where you played really well and got the victory in the end.

“So it’s a lot of fun, and the course is in great shape this year. The greens are really, really smooth and nice.”

Hjorth held on for a one-stroke win over Stacy Prammanasudh at last year’s Navistar Classic thanks partly to a huge last-day putt on the par-5 17th. The Swede sank the 20-plus footer from well onto the fringe above the green to take sole possession of the lead for the first time and keep a one-stroke lead over Ochoa.

“I think it’s important for myself not to put pressure on me,” Hjorth said. “Whether the others put pressure on me, I don’t really know, but as long as I don’t put pressure on myself, I’m looking forward to defending.”

Angela Stanford is another golfer with fond memories of Alabama. She won the Bell Micro LPGA Classic in Mobile on Sept. 14 for her second LPGA Tour victory and first since 2003.

“The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind,” Stanford said. “I feel like I’ve been on the phone more than anything else just trying to reply to family and friends. It really didn’t set in until the end of last week when I got to go home. I finally went home on Wednesday, and kind of started to think about it. They say a win cures everything.”

Good weather helps, too. The golfers player greeted by relatively mild temperatures for an Alabama September with a cool breeze, a stark contrast to the Mobile tournament.

“It was 95 percent humidity and 90 degrees or whatever it was,” Hjorth said Wednesday. “And it was a difficult course, so that was really, really tough. So today it’s really nice. The weather is perfect. You can’t ask much more as a golfer.”

Twenty-four of the 30 money winners are in the field, including Yani Tseng, Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb, Morgan Pressel, Seon Hwa Lee.


September 25, 2008

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