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Published: Thursday, 7/2/2009

No. 1 Ochoa still has lots to prove at the Farr

Lorena Ochoa, the world's top-ranked player, is back at Highland Meadows Golf Club for the first time since 2004. The Farr Classic features 48 of this season's top 50 money winners. Lorena Ochoa, the world's top-ranked player, is back at Highland Meadows Golf Club for the first time since 2004. The Farr Classic features 48 of this season's top 50 money winners.
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It's probably not possible for a pro golfer to have too much success.

But it can create an odd set of circumstances.

In 2007, Lorena Ochoa absolutely slam-dunked the LPGA Tour, winning eight times, posting 21 top-10 finishes, direct-depositing more than $4.3 million.

The thing about winning is that a golfer is expected to return to a tournament the following year. It is very, very bad form not to defend your title.

So Ochoa's 2008 dance card was filled pretty quickly with eight title defenses. Add in a few major championships, some stretches of overseas travel for big-money foreign events, a couple tournaments based in her native Mexico, the big season-ending tour championship, and, well, say hasta la vista to '08.

Plus, a girl needs a siesta now and then, you know.

"Sometimes you just have to say no," Ochoa said yesterday at Highland Meadows Golf Club.

One of the tournaments she said no to last summer was the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.

OK, no big deal. Only one of the tour's top-10 money-winners at the time said yes. The Farr's position on the schedule wasn't great; the purse was inferior to any in a 10-week stretch of the tour's schedule. We get it.

Ochoa's decision ruffled some feathers, though. The LPGA has something called the "one-in-four rule," which mandates that every player compete in every tour stop at least once every four years. Failure to do so results in a slap-on-the-wrist fine that is pretty much tip money to someone of Ochoa's stature.

No tournament, especially one with a rich history like the Farr, enjoys being known as the event a player paid a fine not to play in.

That was the case a year ago. Ochoa hadn't played here since 2004, so the four-year clock was ticking. And the alarm went off without her.

"It's not that I didn't want to be here," she said. "I just couldn't do it."

Give her credit, because she didn't have to do it this year either. But she'll be teeing off today in the first round of the 25th Farr Classic.

Under LPGA rules, paying the fine a year ago gave Ochoa a fresh set of downs. It gave her a new four-year clock.

"It has happened before with other players; you have to accept that," she said. "Sometimes it's not easy to play in all [you want]. I like this tournament. It is special this week."

It is special because one of the best fields in history, certainly recent history, has ascended on the Meadows. The current top 13 money winners are here. Forty-eight of the top 50 are here.

Lorena Ochoa is here. And that is special.

She is the world's No. 1-ranked player, the winner of two events already in 2009. She is the Tiger Woods of the LPGA and can be every bit as dominating as her top-ranked male counterpart. Ochoa said her season has been "a little on and a little off," but when her game is on it is a thing of absolute, pinpoint beauty.

Being No. 1 is important to Ochoa. A blessing, she called it. But it's not the only statistic on her mind.

"You know nothing is easy, and it takes a lot to get to the top," she said. "I am trying to maintain myself up there. The competition is very tough. I'm just trying to enjoy my time, and I will do whatever it takes to stay up there.

Right now I'm [fifth] on the money list, and I want to be No. 1. I want to be player of the year. I want to break records. I have a lot of motivation this week."

Winning the Farr would help Ochoa's cause.

And, of course, she would have to come back next year.

Contact Blade sports columnist

Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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