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Lorena Ochoa aiming for third straight Phoenix title

Lorena Ochoa will go for her third straight victory at the Phoenix stop on the LPGA Tour. She’ll have to do it on a different course.

The tournament, part of the tour for 30 years, lost its sponsor and its home course after last year. The LPGA stepped in to keep the event alive, moving it from the Superstition Mountain Golf Club east of Phoenix to the city’s Papago Golf Course, where the J Golf Phoenix LPGA International begins a four-day run on Thursday.

“It feels a little bit different,” Ochoa said. “You picture yourself one way, at one golf course and this is really a new place for all of us.”

Papago is a 6,711-yard, par-72 public course that was recently renovated. In fact, the new clubhouse has yet to be built, leaving the event to operate in a series of tents and trailers in the shadow of Papago Peak.

Ochoa said the greens are harder than they were at Superstition Mountain.

“It depends on the weather,” she said. “If you get hard winds, it will be a really hard golf course. I think you’ll see low shots, landing the ball before the green. You need the ability to do different shots. I feel ready. It’s the same conditions for everybody.”

Ochoa won her 25th LPGA title in Thailand on March 1, a significant achievement because she switched putters in the offseason.

“I feel more comfortable now,” she said. “Week by week I feel better. I’m spending more time on the putting green. I’m motivated. My goal is to stay at the top.”

The Mexican star and former University of Arizona player is a perennial favorite in Phoenix, with its big Hispanic population.

“I love to come here. I have lots of friends that I will see, some coming from Tucson,” Ochoa said. “I’ve been practicing at 6 a.m. in the morning everyday and just to see the sunrise, it’s a place where I feel comfortable.”

Michelle Wie is back on the tour for the first time since the SBS Open at Turtle Bay in Hawaii.

“The course is in good condition,” she said. “I played here on Sunday. From Sunday to now it’s been a great improvement. The fairways are in good condition. It’s a little deceiving because it’s brown in some spots, but the course is in great condition. It’s a really great track.”

Wie said she’s loving life as a student at Stanford.

“This is such a great time in my life,” she said. “For six months, I’m a golfer and I hibernate and become a hermit and think about golf. At college, I feel like I’m just a normal 19-year-old. I feel like I have a great variety in my life.”

Pat Hurst, who lives in nearby Scottsdale, is coming off her first win since 2006 last week at the MasterCard Classic in Mexico.

“Yes, this is home, so I enjoy coming back,” she said. “Anytime I get to come back home, it is a pleasure to sleep in your own bed.”

She said she had never played the Papago course until a few weeks ago.

“I’ve never had the chance,” she said. “There are so many golf courses around here, but when I go home, I don’t have much time to play. I have to be mom, so I haven’t really played very much.”

 

March 26, 2009




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