Life's a beach for LPGA's Ochoa
Lorena Ochoa was the Can't Miss Kid in women's golf before she even made it to the LPGA.
"Lo-Cho," as her University of Arizona teammates called her, won 12 college tournaments, including seven straight during her sophomore year. After turning professional in 2002, Ochoa had a short stint on the Futures Tour that included three victories, then made the leap to the LPGA and promptly earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2003.
This season Ochoa has become everything she was expected to be, claiming her first two LPGA titles and reaching the third spot on the money list.
Those things are nice, but surely nothing compared with the satisfaction of recently being interviewed by ESPN.com.
Q: You had two wins and 18 top-10 finishes this year. What has made you so successful?
Ochoa: I am having a great season. I am very happy with my results. I think it's really made a difference being so consistent this year. I tried to concentrate and really focus in the beginning of the year on the short game. It's been really important for me to be in the top 10 every week and fight really hard.
Q: How do you stay so consistent at such a high level?
Ochoa: This is just my second year on tour so I have a lot of things to learn by just being around the golf courses and feeling more comfortable around the players on and off the course. My game is not good enough to win every tournament every week, but I think it is good enough to be in the top 10 and I am trying to do my best every week to be up there.
Q: What's been the most exciting part of doing so well?
Ochoa: Everything. I set some goals at the beginning of the year trying to get into the top five. And right now I am in the top three, so as an athlete, achieving your goals is great. It gives a lot of motivation to keep going and try to get better every year.
Q: You've set new LPGA records for most birdies (417 and counting) and most eagles (20) in one season. You must be making plenty of long putts.
Ochoa: (Laughs) Long putts, they are kind of fun. I see that a lot in my statistics. Sometimes when I have short putts, I try too hard. And sometimes I just don't make many. On long putts, I am relaxed more and not trying too hard. I just try to put it close to the hole and wind up making them. It's been teaching me that I don't need to try as hard. I am trying to learn from that. That's what you need to do in golf. Just let things happen and not worry too much.
Q: What are your favorite putting drills?
Ochoa: I put two clubs on the ground so I make sure that I follow the line. That helps me to get a good alignment with my elbows and my shoulders because I tend to aim my shoulders to the left. I practice a lot of long putts just to get a good distance. Sometimes when you have a long putt, you just putt it and then you leave yourself another tough putt to make. This year I have been working a lot on that and it just makes my game so much easier. You can just kind of tap it in.
Q: You've said before that your rookie season was a tough adjustment. How has your second season been different?
Ochoa: It is a lot easier because every week you know where you are going. You know the best hotels or restaurants. You feel more comfortable because you know the courses, which makes things a lot easier because you can rest more. Before, I used to play 18 holes on Tuesday, 18 holes on Wednesday and then 18 holes on Thursday through Sunday. Now, sometimes I just show up on Tuesday and maybe play nine holes or practice chipping and putting. You feel so much better physically when you are more rested and relaxed.
Q: The LPGA Tour will compete in two new events in Mexico next year. How exciting is it for you to bring golf to your country?
Ochoa: I am very, very excited. I can't wait to be there; it is just a dream come true. Everybody in Mexico has been watching what I do and following my career. They are very excited to finally see me play right there with them. It's going to be great.
Q: How would you compare the United States atmosphere and lifestyle to that of Mexico?
Ochoa: In Mexico, our culture is very different. We are closer to each other. In my case, I am a lot closer to my parents and my brother and my sister. For me, it has been very hard being here, far away from them. I miss them a lot. I try to keep in touch with them but it's hard. In Mexico, you always stay at home. You grow up, go to college and you stay at home. Here, everybody just moves out when they turn 18. That is the big difference. But it is amazing how many great opportunities there are in the States. I am just really, really happy to have the opportunity to come and play here on the LPGA. It's been wonderful.
Q: How do you envision the LPGA Tour in five years?
Ochoa: It is changing, especially because there are so many good young players that are coming in the next two or three years. More players with ideas, more energy, more excitement. They are working really hard. They hit the ball really well and are in great condition. It's really good for the fans, sponsors and TV networks. I am just happy to be part of that and I think we have a great future ahead of us.
Q: How do you eliminate distractions outside of golf in your life?
Ochoa: I have a great support group in my family. My brother is my manager in Mexico. He has really been working hard to make sure the only thing I need to do is play golf and practice. I don't have to worry about all the other stuff. You also need to have good balance in your life outside the golf course; that affects your results on the course. And I can see that. Sometimes when I have trouble with my parents or if I am sad because something happened, I don't play as well. So I am just trying to keep myself happy because that is very important. When I am outside the golf course I just do fun stuff or do something different so I can distract my mind from golf.
Q: What are some of those fun things you have done?
Ochoa: We've been fishing a couple of times. We've been kayaking on a lake. We rented a boat once. I've been hiking. Anything I can. I promised myself I would do something different every Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes I would just rather watch a movie, but I try and do things as often as I can.
Q: Fill in the blanks. My greatest sports moment is ...
Ochoa: Snow skiing. I went snow skiing two weeks ago with my best friend and my sister. It is probably the most fun I have ever had. We went to Whistler, Canada. It is beautiful. We went for seven days. Five days skiing and two days in Vancouver. It was great.
Q. The people I most look up to are ...
Ochoa: My parents, because I want to be like them. I am here because of them and I think they are a great example to follow. I really admire them and I am very thankful that I have them.
Q: One thing many people do not know about me is ...
Ochoa: If I wasn't playing golf, I would be living on the beach. I love the beach. I would move there and just live there, 24 hours a day.
Q: One thing I am not very good at is ...
Ochoa: Lately, I have been playing pool. And I am so bad.
Q: How are you going to spend your off season?
Ochoa: I'm going to the beach for the whole month of December and not play golf. I am going to work out and things like that, but no golf. I am going to water ski for five hours a day. And go fishing. And just be at the beach with my family.
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