Ochoa Wraps Up Player of the Year Award

Monday, November 13th 2006, 6:33 am
By: News On 6

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) _ Lorena Ochoa wrapped up the LPGA Tour's player of the year award with a record-setting finish in the Tournament of Champions. The 24-year-old Mexican star shot a 7-under 65 on Sunday for a 10-stroke victory and a tournament-record 21-under 267 total. She ran her winning streak to three with her sixth victory of the year and earned $150,000 for a season total of $2,492,872.

``Winning this tournament was very special,'' Ochoa said. ``I think this is going to be a place I will remember for the rest of my life and just achieving my goal of being the best player in 2006.''

With Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb skipping the tournament, Ochoa locked up the player of the year honors before the season-ending ADT Championship.

``I think it will be easier to win next week now and I don't have that pressure on me that I need to do it for player of the year,'' Ochoa said. ``That's the plan, just to go out there and have fun next week.''

The former University of Arizona player won the player of the year award for the first time, ending Sorenstam's five-year reign. Ochoa is the first player other than Sorenstam and Karrie Webb to earn the award since 1996.

``For the last three years, I think we've seen a lot of changes, just different players stepping up,'' Ochoa said. ``I'm just glad to be a part of that, to be one of those. That's my goal to be No. 1. I know that it's harder to maintain yourself and being in that No. 1 position for many years. So now I have a lot of things that I need to do that I need to get better and better every year. I have high goals.''

Ochoa closed with a 13-foot par putt to break the previous tournament record of 20 under set by Se Ri Pak in 2002. Ochoa took a five-stroke lead Saturday with a 63 after opening the second round with a quadruple-bogey 8 en route to a 73.

Paula Creamer and Juli Inkster tied for second at 11 under. Inkster closed with a 68 and Creamer finished with a 70.

``She played great,'' Inkster said about Ochoa. ``To do what she did yesterday and come right back and do it again today, she is just that type of player. She plays her own game. She doesn't really worry about anybody else. She just tries to go as low as she can. That is a great mentality to have. A lot of people get in that zone and they start freaking, but she keeps plugging away and I don't know if you can teach that.''

Ochoa started the day with a five-stroke advantage over Creamer. Creamer managed to pull within four strokes of Ochoa twice in the final round after a birdie on the third hole and after Ochoa bogeyed the eighth hole.

That's when Ochoa began to methodically pull away with birdies on four of the next five holes. When Creamer bogeyed the 14th, Ochoa's lead grew to nine strokes and the only drama remaining would be whether she would break the tournament record.

``I tried to put some pressure on Lorena, but she has been playing awesome, so what are you going to do?'' Creamer said. ``I was just trying to keep it going with her. At a point when you are out there, you only have so many holes left.''

On the par-4 15th, the toughest hole on the course, Ochoa hit her approach shot within 2 feet for a tap-in birdie and a 10-shot edge.

The field for the ADT Championship was finalized, with 13 players getting in on the second half points list: Stacy Prammanasudh, Morgan Pressel, Julieta Granada, Jee Young Lee, Il Mi Chung, Sophie Gustafson, Sun Young Yoo, Maria Hjorth, Diana D'Alessio, Lorie Kane, Candie Kung, Angela Stanford and Wendy Ward. Ai Miyazato and Sung Ah Yim earned the two wild-card entries as the top players on the LPGA money list after the Samsung World Championship who had not previously qualified for the ADT.