No. 1 Ochoa returns to Mexico confident she can start winning at home
MORELIA, Mexico -- It seems as if nothing can stop Lorena Ochoa.
Except maybe playing on her home turf.
Ochoa returned to her native Mexico this week fresh off her second consecutive major victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She's the obvious favorite in the Corona Championship at Tres Marias in the mountains of western Mexico.
Except Ochoa always seems to struggle at home.
Last month in the MasterCard Classic outside Mexico City, Ochoa opened with a 4-over 76 -- her worst score in nearly a year -- and ended up tying for eighth. Ochoa lost last year's Corona Championship by two strokes to Italy's Silvia Cavalleri.
And the top-ranked Ochoa only has one victory in seven tour starts in Mexico, the 2006 Corona Championship.
"She gives more than 100 percent, and sometimes with golf, you can't do that," said Hector Juarez, editor of Mexico's Caras Golf magazine.
The Mastercard Classic's Bosque Real course has always been a tough one for Ochoa. But, Juarez said, she has had luck at Tres Marias, dominating play in 2006 and winning the tournament by five strokes over Paraguay's Julieta Granada.
"She knows how to win here," he said. "And she really wants to."
Ochoa has said in the past that the pressure of being one of Mexico's most respected and beloved sports heroes can sometimes affect her play. But she said Wednesday that she doesn't mind the high expectations.
"There is no better feeling that when you are on a golf course in New York and you look and see guys with a Mexican flag cheering for you," she said. "It's something very special. It's not pressure, it's a good pressure."
Either way, Ochoa is confident this week will be different.
"I'm ready," she said. "I'm going to try to enjoy my week and not think about that and give myself a good chance. Hopefully I'll be there on Sunday and everything will come together."
Ochoa has three victories in four starts this year to push her LPGA Tour total to 20. She also has moved within a victory of the performance criteria for the World Golf Hall of Fame, although she won't be eligible for induction until 2012.
Defending champion Cavalleri said she doesn't mind that Ochoa takes the spotlight.
"I'm going to play my game and I'm friendly with Lorena and we talk in Spanish," she said. "I know she is a very fair player and she will try to stop the gallery if they are doing something wrong. It's not a problem for me at all."
Perhaps her biggest test will be in November, at the inaugural Lorena Ochoa Invitational. The 54-hole event will be held at the Guadalajara Country Club, the course where Ochoa grew up.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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