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Lorena Ochoa tops strongest ever Asian field

World number one Lorena Ochoa spearheads the strongest field of women golfers ever assembled in Asia as she attempts to defend her HSBC Champions title this week.

The 78-strong line-up is missing only three players from the world’s top 40, and includes every available winner from the 2008 LPGA season.

Ochoa, 27, was a run-away winner at the inaugural event here last year, finishing 11 shots clear of second placed Annika Sorenstam.

With Sorenstam now retired, a younger batch of golfers are challenging Ochoa, including 20-year-olds Yani Tseng and Shin Ji-yai, the world numbers two and five respectively, and 22-year-old Paula Creamer.

“All of them are very young and they’re not afraid. They’re very aggressive,” said Ochoa, who signalled her intentions by winning her first tournament of the season in Thailand on Sunday.

“But I never think of them. I just play for me, rather than think of them, because there’s always somebody who is going to give you a hard time.”

The tournament, dubbed the ‘Major of Asia’ with US$2mil in prize money, is the biggest and richest women’s event staged in the region.

Only winners on the LPGA Tour and champions from the Ladies European Tour and tours in Japan, South Korea, Australasia and Asia are eligible.

The list of entrants also includes America’s Angela Stanford, one of the hottest players on tour at the moment.

The 31-year-old won the LPGA season-opener last month — the SBS Open — to record her third win in seven events.

Stanford burst into form last September, claiming the Bell Micro LPGA Classic, winning again at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational and finishing no worse than sixth in her other four events at the back end of the season.

Others set to be in contention come Sunday include Norway’s Suzann Petterson, Sweden’s Helen Alfredsson and Australia’s Karrie Webb.

The four-day stroke play event mirrors the men’s HSBC Champions competition in Shanghai, which was won last year by world number two Sergio Garcia.


March 4, 2009

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