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Ochoa gets major title breakthrough

August 06, 2007|From Times Wire Reports

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Never before had a women's professional tournament been played at St. Andrews, called "the birthplace of golf."

Never before had Lorena Ochoa, the world's No. 1 women's player, won a major golf title.

Never before had a Mexico-born player won the Women's British Open title, which was elevated to a major in 2001.

So on Sunday when Ochoa took that title on the historic Old Course and said, "It was my time," the thought resonated with such players as 50-year-old Beth Daniel, who extended her career only because she wanted to play at this storied venue, and 83-year-old Hall of Famer Louise Suggs, who joined LPGA stars behind the 18th green just so she could say she had been there.

For Ochoa, who had endured 24 majors of expectations before getting this title, it was "the most special round of golf I ever played."

Through the rain, she completed her four-shot victory with a final-round 74 that gave her a five-under-par 287 total.

"I wanted to win this tournament so bad," said Ochoa, who was hugged by her father, Javier, who splashed her with champagne after her final putt. "Hopefully this is the first of many [majors] to come. It was my time."

Ochoa became the first player to win her first major at St. Andrews, home of the exclusively male Royal & Ancient Club, since Tony Lema's triumph in the men's British Open in 1964.

"I couldn't be more happy," she said as she held the trophy. "I believed I would win this tournament Monday, when I started practicing."

Ochoa led the tournament from the ninth hole of her opening-round 67.

She had tied for second at the U.S. Women's Open a month ago and had been frustratingly close to a major victory several times before. The British Open title was her fourth victory of the year to go with the six last year. During those 24 months, she had been runner-up 10 times.

Her major title drought had become a talking point.

"I accepted it all because I didn't win," she said. "There's no more to say: Being at St. Andrews to make history -- it's going to be there for the rest of my life."

Ochoa finished four shots better than second-place Jee Young Lee (71) and Maria Hjorth (71). Annika Sorenstam, who shared third entering the final round, finished at 296 after a 76 that included a seven at the 17th Road Hole left her tied for 16th. In the rain, Sorenstam felt her foot slip on the 17th and sliced her tee shot so far right it almost struck the Old Course Hotel.

"I'm playing as well as I can. I'm putting as well as I can. It's just not coming together," she said. "This is one of those weeks when I am close, but sometimes close is not good enough."

Daniel, winner of 33 tour events including the 1990 LPGA Championship, ended her career with a 75 for a 304 total.

"To have played in the first women's professional event to be held here is a really big deal," Daniel told the New York Times.

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