Paula Creamer won. � Now that we've got that out of the way, here's the
headline from last week's SemGroup Championship: VICTORY ELUDES OCHOA. Or how
about this: BROKEN STREAK IN BROKEN ARROW. � Anything but OCHOA LOSES. You
don't call golf's hottest player a loser. � Admittedly, it was not Lorena
Ochoa's week. Oh, sure, TIME magazine named her one of the 100 most influential
people in the world. And Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez praised her in the magazine
for "her remarkable warmth and modesty," adding that Ochoa, at age 26,
has already left an "indelible mark" as a humanitarian. And LPGA
commissioner Carolyn Bivens gilded the lily, saying, "Lorena is a wonderful
ambassador for our tour, a true icon in Mexico and a role model for women
across the globe."
But Ochoa didn't
travel to the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow, Okla., to build a school or start a
golf program for children. She was trying to tie the LPGA record of five
consecutive wins, set by Lopez in 1978 and matched by Annika Sorenstam in
2004--05. She was also trying to win her sixth tournament in seven starts and
sew up her third straight Rolex Player of the Year Award while the tulips were
still in bloom. And for those of us who scribble in notebooks while she talks,
Ochoa was trying to fill the void created by Tiger Woods's injury layoff. (Doug
Ferguson, the AP's golf writer, bailed out on the PGA Tour's Wachovia
Championship to cover the SemGroup. That's like having Wolf Blitzer snub the
Indiana primary to bring you poll data on the Taos, N.Mex., light-rail
So you'll have to
excuse us for shouting "Down in front!" at Creamer, the self-styled
Pink Panther of women's golf, who beat Juli Inkster in a two-hole playoff to
win her second tournament of 2008 and the sixth of her short career. (Note to
Paula: You may need a stronger gimmick than pink outfits to get out of Lorena's
shadow. Have you considered a photo shoot for Vanity Fair?) Call it
Lorenamania, call it Ochoa Fever, whatever—she currently is, to paraphrase yet
another magazine, one of the women we love.
don't always go according to expectations. In December, for example, an ice
storm descended on Tulsa, turning its urban forest into a
pick-your-own-firewood festival. Cedar Ridge Country Club lost 300 trees and
sustained major damage to 2,000 more—a statewide calamity that robbed the
former U.S. Women's Open venue of its usual luster. Then, just when the gals
got to Oklahoma, spring happened. Last Thursday's first round, played in
southerly winds of up to 36 mph, produced an average score of nearly six over
par. Ochoa shot a two-over 73.
The next day's
wind, more westerly but nearly as stiff, induced six players to withdraw and
kept scores soaring. The cut line of 10 over par was the highest for the LPGA
since the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship, and Creamer, with rounds of 70--71,
was the only player under par for 36 holes. Ochoa? For the first time in two
years she played a birdie-free round, shooting 74, and for the first time since
the 2006 Women's British Open she had two over-par rounds in a single
tournament. That left Ochoa, who trailed Creamer by six strokes, in a tie with
Oprah Winfrey, Tony Blair, Mia Farrow and Sheik Mohammed al-Maktoum in the
Heroes and Icons bracket.
Those are the TIME results. Ochoa learned of her selection to the Top 100 list
on, of all places, the LPGA's website. "It was a great surprise," she
said of the honor. "I'm glad they pay attention to golf and what we
accomplish out here."
a gradual diminishing of wind, and that had Creamer looking over her shoulder
at Ochoa, who is a birdie machine when conditions are right. Lorena dunked a
long birdie putt on the 8th hole and a short birdie putt on the 9th, and
suddenly she was only three behind. But Creamer, trying to bounce right back
from a playoff loss to Sorenstam in Miami, promptly made a birdie of her own.
The gap was never that narrow again, and when the third round ended, Creamer's
closest pursuer was not Ochoa but a 47-year-old hero-icon with a propensity for
on-the-course theatrics. That set up an interesting Sunday duel between
Creamer, who holds the record for youngest winner of an LPGA event (18 years,
11 months, 18 days), and Inkster, who if she had won, would have overtaken Beth
Daniel (46 years, eight months, 29 days) as the oldest.
still positive," she said after her round of 71. "There's not too many
players in front of me, and this is a tough course. Anything can
It sure can.
Sunday dawned sunny and warm with just enough breeze to rustle the emerging
leaves on Cedar Ridge's misshaped trees. Ochoa, starting eight shots behind,
failed to mount an early charge. The leaders, meanwhile, were tied at two under
after an Inkster-friendly two-shot swing on the 7th, a dry run, apparently, for
the really dramatic two-shot swing that sent the tournament into overtime. That
came on 18 when Creamer—behind the green in two but enjoying a two-stroke lead
over her friend and former Solheim Cup partner—chipped 12 feet past the hole.
Inkster then stunned her pink prot�g� by holing an 18-footer for birdie.
The old lady—did
we mention that she's 47?—threw up her arms and reeled like a wobbling top.
That left Creamer, who had sobbed in the ladies' room after her Miami loss,
needing to make her par putt to avoid a playoff.