Monday, November 13, 2006

Mitchell TOC – Final Round

Lorena Ochoa locked up the 2006 Rolex Player Of The Year award with a dominating ten-stroke victory at the Mitchell Company Tournament Of Champions. Her final round of 65 gave her a tournament-record overall score of -21. Juli Inkster and Paula Creamer tied for second at -11 while Angela Stanford was fourth at -7. No other players finished closer than 17 shots to the lead!

Trailing by five at the beginning of the round, Creamer kept pace early. When Ochoa bogeyed 8, the lead was four. Lorena started cranking up the pressure with birdies on 9 and 11 while Paula birdied 11 to stay five back. The tournament was essentially over at 12, when Creamer bogeyed and Ochoa birdied to take a seven-shot lead with six to play. After that, the story was Juli Inkster birdying three holes down the stretch to catch Creamer for second place. Paula did manage a fine up-and-down at 18 to salvage the tie.

Jeong Jang and Cristie Kerr made the most headway on Sunday – Jang shooting 68 to finish tied for sixth (-3) while Kerr posted 69 to finish tied for ninth (-2). If not for the seven shots she lost at 15 and 17 on Saturday, Kerr would have finished fourth. Now that I think about it, she was lucky that explosion didn’t cost her the victory – in a lot of tournaments the margin between first and ninth is less than seven strokes. Stacy Prammanasudh took the biggest Sunday plunge with a 77 to finish T11 (-1). This week’s Big Surprise was Dorothy Delasin, who collected almost a third as much money as she had earned all year by tying for sixth. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Grace Park finishing T16 at even par (Friday’s 75 was her only off-round). She won’t be playing in the ADT Championship but hopefully this performance is an indication that she is on her way back.

Watching Ochoa launch iron after iron to within ten feet of the pin the last two days got to be almost ridiculous after a while. It reminded me of so many tournaments over the last few years when Annika Sorenstam would do that very thing. One of my favorite things about following sports is seeing a player or team evolve from having potential to being truly great. Over the last three-plus years, that is exactly what I and anyone watching women’s golf has seen in Lorena Ochoa. She joined the Tour after setting numerous records in college and although she was Rookie Of The Year, she didn’t win for over a year. In 2005 she only won once despite having multiple chances which always seemed to slip away with a couple of wayward drives or missed putts. She was often in the Top 10, but rarely holding the trophy. In ‘06 she changed all that, and if not for a Karrie Webb miracle she would have won her first major as well. I get the feeling Lorena just spitefully saved that challenge for 2007 so she would still have one big goal to motivate her. Until she gets that major, I don’t see the Ochoa Steamroller slowing down.

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