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Lorena Ochoa set for season's first major

World number one Lorena Ochoa will be seeking to rediscover her putting touch when she defends her title at this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship, the opening women's major of the season.

The Mexican has posted three top-10s in her first four LPGA Tour starts this year, including victory at the LPGA Thailand, but she struggled on the greens at last week's LPGA International.

“I'm very happy with my driver, it's just I didn't have anything going this week,” the 27-year-old told reporters after tying for 15th at Papago Golf Course in Phoenix, Arizona on Sunday.

“I feel like I haven't played too bad but the score hasn't shown anything. I just didn't feel comfortable (on the greens). It's very disappointing. Better this week than at the Kraft Nabisco though.”

Ochoa will be able to draw on stirring memories on her return to the California desert for this week's tournament at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

Twelve months ago, she underlined her dominance in the women's game by charging to a second successive major title by five shots with a flawless five-under-par 67.

On a breezy sun-drenched day, she pulled away from the field to clinch the 20th LPGA victory of her career, and a second major crown to add to the 2007 Women's British Open.

“That was a great day,” Ochoa recalled. “I played like the British Open. It was something that I enjoyed a lot and it was very easy at the same time.

“I've learned that I can go low and win a tournament by a few shots and I'm going to try to continue that,” she added.

The popular Mexican heads a typically strong field for the first women's major of the year.

Twice champion Karrie Webb of Australia is back, fresh from her two-stroke victory in Phoenix on Sunday when she closed with a five-under 67.

“That meant a lot to me,” former world number one Webb said after ending a title drought of two years on the LPGA Tour. “Winning on the LPGA against the best players in the world is very important to me.”

Also playing is Taiwan's Tseng Yani, who won her first major title in a playoff for last year's LPGA Championship in her rookie season, and became the fastest player in Tour history to earn $2 million by tying for fourth in Phoenix on Sunday.

Pak Se Ri, who leads a powerful contingent from South Korea, will be seeking the only grand slam crown not yet in her trophy cabinet and Norway's Suzann Pettersen returns to Mission Hills after finishing runner-up for the last two years.


April 1, 2009

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