MOBILE, Ala. -- Lorena Ochoa moved into position to wrap up
the LPGA Tour player of the year race and win her sixth title of
the year, shooting a 9-under 63 on Saturday to take a five-stroke
lead in the LPGA Tournament of Champions.
The 24-year-old Mexican star, seeking her third straight
victory, needs a victory Sunday to win the player of the year
points race and become the first player other than Annika Sorenstam
or Karrie Webb to secure the honor since 1996.
"This is a really big tournament for me because of that,"
Ochoa said about clinching the award before facing Sorenstam and
Webb next week in the season-ending ADT Championship. "I think it
will be a lot easier to get that done, player of the year. This is
a tough tournament, tough competition and the golf course is
Ochoa, coming off a three-week break, had a 14-under 202 total
on Magnolia Grove's Crossings Course. In her last two starts, she
won the Corona Morelia Championship in Mexico and rallied to beat
Sorenstam in the Samsung World Championship.
"I'm just glad that I'm in a good position," Ochoa said. "I'm
glad that I'm in the final group. That was my goal, just to have a
chance to win the tournament. I don't want to think all of that. I
want to get here tomorrow, not think about it, have fun, have a
good round. I'm not going to think all of the things outside, just
play my own game tomorrow and enjoy."
Creamer shot a 69.
"She played well today," Creamer said about Ochoa. "I can go
out and play well like she did today, tomorrow. I will be playing
with her. I'm still in the last group, which is nice. She has been
playing really well, so that will help motivate myself."
Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, who started the day tied for the
lead with Moira Dunn, was third at 7 under after a 73. Stacy
Prammanasudh (71) was 6 under, while Dunn (78) was 2 under.
Ochoa has played the last 33 holes in 13 under, an amazing
recovery from a quadruple bogey-8 on the first hole of the second
round. She also bogeyed the third hole Friday and at that point was
1 under for the tournament.
"I think after yesterday, the way I started the round and how
mental it was for me, just to try to make birdies and catch up and
get myself in a good position," Ochoa said. "I was just tired,
mentally tired. Today was the opposite. Everything was just so
easy, just one of those days."
Starting the day three strokes behind the leaders, Ochoa made up
ground quickly with a birdie-eagle-birdie streak on Nos. 3-5 that
put here in the lead. A bogey from the bunker on the par-3 eighth
momentarily broke her momentum and dropped her into a tie with
Cristie Kerr and Inkster for the lead.
With the north wind picking up and temperature dropping, Ochoa
seized control with five birdies in the next six holes, including
four in a row.
"I got a good momentum early and I thought I would keep it
going during the day," Ochoa said. "I guess I know I can do it. I
really only play one hole at a time. It was one of those days that
everything worked and I was hitting the ball good. I felt good with
my putts and I think my distance control really helped me today to
put the ball close and make some birdies."
She had the chance to match the tournament- and course-record 62
set by Carin Koch in 2002, but her 10-foot birdie putt lipped out
of the right edge of the cup.
"I knew there was a 10 under before and I was trying hard to go
10 under," Ochoa said. "It just lipped out. It's a great day."