Ochoa plans short reign as the next 'Tigress' of greens
Thursday 31 July 2008
Pity the poor organisers of the women's game, even if your surname does happen to be Wie. No sooner do they find one superstar to replace the other who is just retiring, then she declares she is quitting as well.
Still, at least Lorena Ochoa has given them "five or six years" to discover the new world No 1 capable of filling the hole in which the Mexican has only recently planted her enormous talent. On the eve of the Women's British Open, which begins at Sunningdale this morning, Ochoa announced she would be following the Annika Sorenstam master plan in retiring in her thirties.
Except while the Swede will be hanging up her spikes – temporarily or permanently remains to be seen – in November as a fit and able 37-year-old, her successor says her pensionable age will be more like "31 or 32". "Life is too short," explained the 26-year-old. "There are many things I want to do outside of golf. This is already my sixth year as a professional. When I get to 10 to 12 years then I move on." Perhaps Michelle Wie will be ready to vacate the throne by then?
Or then, perhaps not. The 18-year-old, who is still, perversely, the biggest name in a women's game she continues to slight, bizarrely bypassed the opportunity to qualify for the last major of the year and instead took up an invitation to play this week in a lowly event on the PGA Tour which is really not deserving of a namecheck.
Apparently, the Wie camp are not best pleased that they did not receive an invitation for Sunningdale and their case has bafflingly been backed by those who claim that the Hawaiian would put bums on turf. Looks like all those bums will have to find another freak show to attend these next four days.
For the true golf fan, the blessed sight of Ochoa will suffice; all 5ft 6in, and 9st of her, hitting it a full 290 yards. Faced with a rival phenomenon like this, is it any wonder Sorenstam has decided to start a family instead?
While it is too premature in the Ochoa reign to label her "Tigress" Woods, yawn, yawn, her record since the beginning of 2006 does indeed bear comparison with Mr Incomparable. Woods has won 26 tournaments in this period, Ochoa, 20, and even if her major haul does not stack up so proudly (she has only two to Woods' four in the last 30 months) the tree-lined fairways of Berkshire may well witness a slight redressing on the record sheet. At 5-2 she looks good value to deny Sorenstam her fairy-tale finale and do a "Padraig" by retaining the Open title she won so impressively at St Andrews last year.
Alas, with just two players in the world's top 50, the British challenge does not appear likely to stop Ochoa. Granted, there is Karen Stupples, who in 2004 won this very title at this very course with a never-to-be-forgotten eagle-albatross start to her final round, but it may be more advisable to look to a member of the younger guard. Rebecca Hudson, 29, has both the form (two wins on the European Tour already this campaign) and the indignant purpose to be the main home hope. "It's a shame when you look at all the posters publicising the Women's British Open and there are none of our girls on them," Hudson said. There is a remarkably simple way to fix that.
European focus will be centred on Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Colin Montgomerie and Paul Casey in Akron, Ohio, today as the £4m WGC Bridgestone Invitational gets under way. All four need high finishes to leapfrog into the automatic qualifying positions for the European team for September's Ryder Cup.
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