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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2008 > LPGA > Stanford International Pro-Am > Tournament Preview
 

STANFORD INTERNATIONAL PRO-AM RELATED STORIES





LPGA moves on to Miami without Lorena Ochoa

Lorena Ochoa won’t win on the LPGA Tour this week. James Blake, however, has a chance.

Having decided that four wins in successive weeks—a feat not seen in 45 years—was enough, Ochoa is skipping the inaugural Stanford International Pro-Am, which begins Thursday just north of Miami.

Even without the tour’s overwhelmingly dominant player, there’s no shortage of star power. Annika Sorenstam, Suzann Pettersen, Paula Creamer and South Florida natives Morgan Pressel and Cristie Kerr are in the field, along with an array of celebrities, including Blake and fellow tennis star Ivan Lendl, baseball Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and actor James Caan.

The pros will play 72 holes; the celebs, 54, which will surely provide enough time for some embarrassing moments.

“It’s going to be different,” Sorenstam said.

And she wasn’t even talking about the fact that someone other than Ochoa will hoist a winner’s trophy on Sunday afternoon.

Ochoa has won 10 of her last 15 starts, including the last four by a combined 26 strokes. Sorenstam won four straight starts, albeit not in consecutive weeks, in 2001, so she can certainly understand why, even in Ochoa’s absence, why the Mexican remains the talk of the tour this week.

“I wish you would ask me how it would feel to try to go to five in a row,” Sorenstam said. “I miss those times and hopefully I get that later this year. It’s obviously a great time for Lorena. I hope she’s enjoying it. There’s pressure, but then by the end of the day, it’s fun.”

There’s pressure and fun awaiting the amateurs this week as well.

Take Caan, for example. He was an Academy Award nominee for his role in “The Godfather,” and still gets plenty of questions about his work in “Misery” and “Brian’s Song.”

Yet when he gets to the tee box with partner Christina Kim on Thursday morning, he might not be quite ready for action.

“I’ll be more nervous than I was in any of those former things that you mentioned,” said Caan, who quipped that he plans to take shots of valium “every two or three holes.”

Mingling with low-handicappers—and, yes, even high-handicappers—is a regular happening on the men’s and women’s tours, where deep-pocketed amateurs shell out big cash for the chance to spend a day playing alongside a pro on the Wednesday before a tournament begins.

Those are usually low-stress events.

But the pros are vying this week for a $300,000 winner’s check, so they’ll have their own games to worry about.

“Normally in the pro-ams, I try and help,” Kerr said. “I give tips and try and teach, ‘Hey, you should grip it more like this or try this with your technique or stay still with your putting.’ But this is going to be different. It’s going to be, I think, a little awkward for the amateurs, because they’re going to want to feel like they don’t want to mess us up. And we’re going to try and stay out of their way as well.”

Blake, the No. 8 men’s tennis player in the world, could be contending for top honors this week on the clay in Monte Carlo. Instead, he’s playing on grass at Turnberry, teaming with Creamer, currently fourth in the women’s world rankings.

He feels more than a little outside his comfort zone.

“I’m a little scared because it’s the first time I’ll be playing with a gallery,” said Blake, who carries around a 13 handicap and plays two or three times a week when he’s not entered in a tennis tournament. “And I don’t think the gallery will be ready for the slice like mine.”

Creamer asked Blake to be her teammate during a chance meeting in a mall where they bumped into one another. They’ve paired up once before, at a member-guest event on a course where Blake is a member.

“It’s going to be fun. I’m going to have a great time, I know that,” Blake said. “She’s one of the best golfers in the world. I’ve played with her a couple of times before and it’s fun just to see how good those guys are. Suck up my pride a little and lose badly to a girl.”

 

April 24, 2008




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