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Making a Mochrie of Lopez line

Her maiden name was Pepper, and Dottie Mochrie brims with competitive spice. She had Nancy Lopez sneezing Saturday. After their fight to the Tournament of Champions finish, an easy-to-smile and naturally gregarious Lopez described the experience as "pretty fierce."

It's a personality thing.

"When I say "Nice shot!' to someone," said Lopez, the world's most famous woman golfer, "I'd like to hear "Thank you.' God would want me to do that."

Mochrie was unresponsive.

At 28, she is driving to be golf's best. To be the next Nancy Lopez. Dottie hit "Nice shot!" after "Nice shot!" around the grassy moguls, menacing bunkers and slithering Jack Nicklaus architecture of the Grand Cypress course. Her work was imposing enough to outgun Lopez by two strokes.

Barely five minutes into the climactic T of C round, Lopez would bellow her most spirited "Nice shot!" of a sun-kissed, blue-sky afternoon. Mochrie had smacked an 8-iron 122 yards into the cup for an eagle 2.

Dottie did not reply.

Don't misinterpret. Lopez doesn't dislike Mochrie. Nancy loves everybody in the world, and vice versa. "Nancy Lopez was my hero, growing up," Dottie would say, post-war. It's just that the 37-year-old Hall of Famer plays golf at a significantly different beat than Mochrie, the legend-wannabe.

Lopez is like a Stradivarius violin who, amid her artistry, enjoys fiddling around with rivals and even an ever-adoring audience. Mochrie is more of a bass drum, a bold and brassy athlete who frequently is oblivious to those sharing the stage.

"I've always been extremely intense," said Mochrie, who lives in Sarasota but is building a home in South Carolina. "My kindergarten teacher, her name was Mrs. Hindman, sent a note home to my mother saying that Dottie is very serious for a 5-year-old. My mom still has the note.

"I don't mean to ignore anybody, especially a Nancy Lopez who's congratulating me for a good shot. But I'm convinced there's a lot said on the golf course that I never hear, or at least never comprehend. I thought I talked quite a bit with Nancy and Betsy King during the round. I thought it was pretty casual."

A matter of perception.

"Friends following me in the gallery will often mention after a round that they had said something to me on the course," Mochrie said, "and I will have zero recollection; totally unaware that they were out there or said anything to me."

It's called focus or tunnel vision or being "in a zone." Ben Hogan used to be like that. Arnold Palmer or Joanne Carner or Chi Chi Rodriguez never were.

How "zoned" was Hogan, the steely golfing god of 40 years ago? Listen to this one. During a practice round prior to a Masters tournament, Ben hit his tee shot 2 feet from the cup at Augusta National's classic par-3 12th hole. His playing companion, the also-legendary Byron Nelson, then one-upped Hogan, making a hole-in-one. Ben said nothing. Not even "Nice shot!" Hogan made his little putt. Then, on the way to the 13th tee, Ben would finally speak, saying to Nelson, "You know, Byron, I think that's the first time I ever birdied that damned hole."

It's a matter of personality. Nancy does it the Lopez way, Dottie does it the Mochrie way. Even if Lopez walks away feeling a bit socially shortchanged.

"Dottie did eventually ask me if my kids had come down for the tournament," Lopez said. "Of course, that's when she had a four-shot lead on me." Nancy then sealed her commentary with golf's most renowned, most toothy grin.

I asked Mochrie what she does in spare moments, when taking a week off from the LPGA tour. "I practice," she said, busting into a grin of her own. "I like to take my boom box and two dogs to a remote part of the practice range and just hammer away." Ben Hogan would like that, except for the high-decibel radio.

Dottie's husband, Doug, is a club pro. A golf teacher. Saturday, he was champion Mochrie's caddie. "How intense is this family?" Dottie said. "Well, after I won my first tournament, Doug's words to me were, "Only 34 to go and you make the LPGA Hall of Fame.'

"

Like, uh, Nancy Lopez.

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