Eyes On The Prize: Lorena Ochoa Seeks First U.S. Open, Third Major

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IJune 24, 2008

Stop me if you've heard this one before...

I'm thinking of a golfer.

Someone ranked No. 1 in the world.

Someone who has won two out of the last three majors and has six victories already this season.

Someone who is chasing the greatest golfer of all-time.

Someone who leads the tour in birdies, driving distance and greens in regulation, although not particularly the straightest driver.

Oh and she looks pretty good in Capri's.

No I'm not talking about that guy out for the rest of the year; I'm talking about Lorena Ochoa.  The 26-year-old pride of Mexico has taken over the LPGA and with golf's biggest star on the shelf it might be time for the casual fan to give the women's top draw some well-deserved attention as she attempts to win her first U.S. Open this week.

Ochoa may not pump her fists or play on a broken leg, but she exhibits just as much passion and determination as the man in red.  While Earl Woods may claim that no one has the same mental toughness as his son, Ochoa has certainly had obstacles she has overcome.

Anyone can tell you that golfers have to learn how to win.  It is not always a clean process and for Ochoa, it was pretty messy.  Perhaps the best example came at Cherry Orchards in 2005. 

Ochoa stood at the 18th tee at three over par, the eventual winning score.  Her Sunday charge put her in great position to post a number and watch the inexperienced young players around her thrash their way to the finish. 

Ochoa, however, chunked her drive into the lake en route to a quadruple bogey.  All she could do was watch in disbelief and wonder what could have been.  

"I gave the tournament away," Ochoa admitted.  

In 2007, Ochoa looked poised again for U.S. Open success.  Ochoa was set in a duel with Cristie Kerr in the final round, but on 15 she snapped her drive into the woods. 

On 17, she badly misplayed a chip leading to bogey and giving Kerr the cushion she needed.  It became clear Ochoa was becoming the best LPGA player without a major.

A funny thing happened though for Ochoa—she won.

At the home of golf, Lorena Ochoa struggled periodically throughout the week but finished with a convincing win at St. Andrews in the Ricoh Women’s British Open.  Her nearest competitor Linda Wessburg could not get closer than five shots and the long-driving Ochoa left her competition in the dust. 

She was a major champion, at age 25.  The same age Tiger began his Tiger-slam. 

Ochoa ended the year replacing Annika Sorenstam as the No. 1 ranked player in the world.  She then picked up her second straight Major title in the beginning of 2008 and there was talk of an Ochoa-slam.  Things may not have gone her way at the McDonald's LPGA Championship but that has not stopped her momentum and popularity.

Maybe it is because she has donated a large portion of her earnings towards building schools in her Mexican hometown.  Maybe it is because she actually takes the time to personally thank each and every greens keeper for his or her work on the course she plays.

Whatever it is, Ochoa possesses a charisma that few can deny.

How good are things for Ochoa?  Most people do not think about retirement at age 26, but she is already just a few points away from qualifying for the Hall of Fame.

Ochoa is far from done though but her main competitor, Sorenstam, recently announced this is her farewell tour.  While Tiger’s main competition has not won a major in 22 years, Ochoa’s not chasing a ghost but a woman hell bent on ending her career where it began: on top.

Ochoa comes to Interlachen Country Club with a chance to exorcise some ghosts and an opportunity to solidify her name as the best in women’s golf.  So why wait until next year’s Masters? When it comes to the LPGA tour, the future is now.