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Ochoa claims fourth straight LPGA victory

After her fourth straight LPGA Tour victory, Lorena Ochoa receives the Ginn Open’s Kelly Jo Dowd Championship trophy.

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After her fourth straight LPGA Tour victory, Lorena Ochoa receives the Ginn Open’s Kelly Jo Dowd Championship trophy.

REUNION — In case you haven't noticed, the changing of the guard atop the LPGA Tour is proceeding in dramatic fashion — with Mexico's Lorena Ochoa leaving no doubt about who's in charge now.

The era of Sweden's Annika Sorenstam has become a fading memory in the wake of Ochoa's consistent dominance the past year, illustrated Sunday at the Ginn Open, where she shattered the course record by seven strokes with 19-under 269 to hold off Yani Tseng. The rookie from Taiwan struggled on the back nine to finish at 272.

Ochoa, 26, won her fourth LPGA event in four weeks, matching Mickey Wright in 1962 and 1963. Kathy Whitworth (1969) and Sorenstam (2001) won four in a row but did so over five weeks because of the tour calendar.

"I'm very thankful for what I have right now," said Ochoa, who earned her tour card in 2003 after topping the Futures Tour money list in 2002. "You know, I feel that it's been a blessing. I know that bad times will come. It's just the way life is. So I'm just trying to enjoy my moment. And I would like to enjoy it for a long time."

Ochoa, who shot 3-under 69, took home $390,000 and the first Kelly Jo Dowd Championship trophy, renamed this year for the mother of Dakoda Dowd, who, at 13, played in the 2006 Ginn on a sponsor's exemption to fulfill her mother's wish. Kelly Jo Dowd of Palm Harbor died of complications from breast cancer in 2007.

Ochoa will not break her tie with Wright because she is skipping this week's Stanford International in Aventura. But she can tie the record for consecutive victories shared by Nancy Lopez (1978) and Sorenstam (2004-05) when she tees off in the SemGroup Championship May 2 in Broken Arrow, Okla.

Sorenstam was the banner-holder for the women's pro game until a ruptured disc in her back limited playing time last year. Sorenstam, 37, who missed the 2007 Ginn Open, tied for 44th at 1-under 287 and will have a tough time catching the woman who took over her No. 1 ranking on April 23, 2007.

While the golf world was focused last week on Trevor Immelman's Masters victory, the 5-foot-6 golfer from the University of Arizona was in her native Mexico, winning the Corona Championship by 11 strokes and earning enough points to qualify for the Hall of Fame — the second-youngest LPGA player to do so (Karrie Webb was 25 when she qualified in 2000). Ochoa can't be inducted until 2012, after 10 years on the tour.

She can make modern pro golf history this year by becoming the first — LPGA or PGA — to compete the Grand Slam. Ochoa won this year's first major in April, the Nabisco Kraft Championship, and is thinking about winning the next three: "Yes, of course. … I know I can do it. I believe in myself, (but) it's too early to start talking about it."

Ochoa, who finished second in the previous two Ginns, lost her one-shot lead when Tseng birdied Nos. 1-2 Sunday, but she rallied with birdies on the third, eighth, ninth and 10th holes. Tseng missed birdie chances on the 11th and 12th holes then bogeyed three of the final six holes. Still, at only 19, she gained a fan in Ochoa.

"She told me after (that) we will play a lot of final groups together," Tseng said.

Asked how she would compare herself to Tseng at 19, Ochoa remarked, "She's for sure much, much better. When I was 19 … I was trying to beat the college girls, and she's trying to win an LPGA tournament, playing with the best players in the world."

Including one who has earned 19 titles since 2006 and might just be getting warmed up.

PGA: Weekley claims second Heritage title

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Boo Weekley successfully defended his title in the Heritage at Harbour Town, closing with par 71 for a three-stroke victory over Anthony Kim (71) and Aaron Baddeley (71).

After holing out, Weekley gave the gallery a thumbs-up as it loudly cheered, "Boooo!" He bowed to the fans and threw up his hands in triumph.

"I wanted to do the moonwalk, the belly-roll," he said.

Weekley, who finished at 15-under 269, took a three-shot lead into the final round and watched it grow by mostly staying trouble-free and seeing competitors struggle to catch up.

Kim, paired with Weekley, was in the best spot to pressure the leader. But his chance at a first PGA Tour title disappeared with double bogey on the par-4 ninth.

Times wires contributed to this report.

>>FAST FACTS

Wright vs. Ochoa

LPGA Hall of Famer Mickey Wright, who turned pro in 1955, has 82 tour wins, including 10 with two majors in 1962 and 13 with two majors (her 11th) in 1963, the years she won four events in four consecutive weeks at ages 27 and 28. Lorena Ochoa, 26, who joined the tour in 2003, has 22 wins, including two majors. Her four wins in four consecutive weeks:

March 30: 22-under 266, defeats Jee Young Lee by seven in the Safeway International at Superstition Mountain, Ariz.

April 6: 11-under 277, defeats Annika Sorenstam and Suzann Pettersen by five at the Kraft Nabisco Championship at Rancho Mirage, Calif.

April 13: 25-under 267, defeats Song-Hee Kim by 11 in the Corona Championship at Morelia, Mexico

Sunday: 19-under 269, defeats Yani Tseng by three in the Ginn Open at Reunion

Ochoa claims fourth straight LPGA victory 04/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 21, 2008 12:08am]
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