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Ochoa's physical gifts are married to a mental toughness forged in extreme sports, and she is well served by an innately sunny outlook that no sports psychologist can teach. Ask her how she overcame all the near misses early in her career and she says, "I remember only the good shots. The others, they disappear."
Veteran Pat Hurst uses the word carefree to describe Ochoa on the golf course. "She has simplified the game so much," says Hurst. "She's making it look so easy, it's silly. Golf is not supposed to be this easy."
AS OCHOA has piled up victories, she has found that the hard part of her job is outside the ropes, where she is pulled in so many directions. "To my knowledge she has never said no to anything we've asked," says LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens.
It was only a few hours after Ochoa's participation in the ceremony at the Stock Exchange that Sorenstam, 37, rocked the golf world by announcing she was retiring at the end of the season. Beginning next year Ochoa will have to carry the tour pretty much by herself, but she has already steeled herself for that. "I chose to be in this position," she says, "so I accept the responsibilities that come with it." She allows, however, that "it is not always easy, because I am a private person." She is still adjusting to the scrutiny that has come with her four-month-old romance with Andr�s Conesa, who as CEO of AeroMexico is one of his country's most prominent businessmen.
In announcing her retirement Sorenstam said she is looking forward to building her Annika brand, which already includes a clothing line and a course-design business. Meanwhile Ochoa may be omnipresent in Mexico—in November she will host the inaugural Lorena Ochoa Invitational at Guadalajara Country Club, the third LPGA event to be founded south of the border in recent years—but the tour wants to raise her profile in the U.S. Ochoa is ambivalent about that, saying, "I am happy with what I have now."
Sorenstam's primary reasons for walking away are personal: She is getting married next January and is eager to have children. This has resonated deeply with the family-oriented Ochoa. If she feels an urgency to win the Grand Slam, it is because she has often said that she sees herself playing only 10 seasons or so before she retires to focus on a family of her own. She does not disguise her longing to spend more time at her beach house in San Juan de Alima, a fishing village on the Pacific coast.
"I love golf, I love competing, I love winning," Ochoa says. "I have worked very hard to get to this point, and I am enjoying it. But there will be a time to stop, to concentrate on other things that matter. I look forward to a life that is a little more...." She stares out the window of Willy's town car, searching for the right word. Manhattan is in the rearview mirror, and she is speeding toward a future that holds so much promise. "Simple. I like that word. Yes, simple. That is what I look forward to."