Sat, Nov 15, 2008 - Page 19 News List

Lorena Ochoa struggles in her own invitational

AP , GUADALAJARA, MEXICO

Ernie Els of South Africa putts during round two of the Barclays Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore yesterday. The cream of Asian golf are determined to make a name for themselves at the cash-rich Singapore Open this week, with the race to end the season as the region’s No. 1 also a key motivator.

PHOTO: AFP

Lorena Ochoa struggled in the first round in her own Lorena Ochoa Invitational, shooting a 1-over 73 on her home course to drop five strokes behind Annika Sorenstam and the other leaders on Thursday.

“I can’t say I’m happy, because I’m not, but I feel like I can get closer. I hope to do it tomorrow,” said Ochoa, who took up the game 21 years ago at Guadalajara Country Club. “It’s a good pressure to play here, to feel the good vibes, and the love of my fans. I feel motivated because I know that we have three more days to play.”

US LPGA Championship winner Yani Tseng (曾雅妮), No. 2 in the world behind Ochoa and ahead of Sorenstam, topped the leaderboard at 68 along with Sorenstam, Angela Stanford, Karen Stupples, Lee Seon-hwa, Nicole Castrale, Han Hee-won and Brittany Lang.

Ochoa has two victories — the 2006 and 2008 Corona Championship — in nine US LPGA Tour starts in Mexico. She has seven victories in 20 tour starts this year and leads the money list with US$2,738,888.

“I was off rhythm, especially on my second shot, and that took away the chances of birdies,” Ochoa said. “I will take another round of practice later on so tomorrow can be a better day.”

Ochoa bogeyed Nos. 4 and 6 to make the turn at 2-over 38. She birdied the par-5 10th, bogeyed the 15th and closed with a birdie on the par-5 18th.

“It was hard to concentrate with the comments from the crowd and me trying to play good,” Ochoa said. “But I think I was able to control the pressure fine and, hopefully, do better the next few days.”

Sorenstam, leaving the tour at the end of the season, birdied five of the first 13 holes to take the lead at 5 under, but missed shot par putts on 14 and 16 before rallying with a birdie on 18.

“There is really not much to talk about,” Sorenstam said. “I missed two short putts. I tried to move on and not to think too much about it.”

The Swedish star is coming off a playoff victory two weeks ago in a Ladies European Tour event in China. She has three US LPGA Tour victories this season.

“Today was a good day,” Sorenstam said. “Now I will need another three to go with it and see what happens. Once I step inside the ropes, I enjoy the competition. It’s just so hard to prepare the way I used to. The fire is just not there. That’s what I’m fighting every day, but the competitive side has not disappeared.”

Stupples, the 35-year-old English player looking for her first victory since the 2004 Women’s British Open, birdied the first three holes and holed a 60-degree wedge from 70 yards for eagle on the 364-yard 14th.

She played with a broken middle toe on her right foot.

Taiwan’s Teresa Lu (盧曉晴) shot 72 and Candie Kung (龔怡萍) carded a 2-over 74.

■ SINGAPORE OPEN

AFP, SINGAPORE

A resurgent Ernie Els stormed into contention with a hard-fought 70 for a share of the lead alongside England’s Simon Dyson on another weather-marred day at the Singapore Open yesterday.

It was a long slog for the big South African who had to come out at daybreak to finish four holes from his first round, after being forced off the fairways by bad light on Thursday.

He wasted no time in sinking two birdies to take the outright first round lead before teeing off again almost immediately for round two, where he mixed three birdies and two bogeys to be on six-under-par 136 going into the weekend.

He shares the lead with Dyson, who stroked a majestic four-­under-par 67.

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