- Ron Sirak, Golf
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MT. PLEASANT, S.C. -- Lorena Ochoa, the No. 1 player in the Rolex Rankings, withdrew from the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika on Wednesday, citing her uncle's ill health.
Ochoa, who has won six of her nine starts this year, practiced at RiverTowne CC Tuesday, then informed tournament officials she was returning to Mexico.
"I am very sorry to have to withdraw But my uncle is very ill," Ochoa said in a statement. "I need to be with my uncle and my family right now." She was replaced in the field by Eva Dahllof.
It's the second consecutive year the $2.6 million event -- the highest purse outside the U.S. Women's Open and the Evian Masters -- has been impacted by an unexpected event. Last year, Nicole Castrale's victory was overshadowed by "88-Gate" -- Michelle Wie's withdrawal after 16 holes, citing a sore wrist, after an LPGA official informed her agent she would be disqualified for the rest of the season if she failed to break 88. She was 14 over par at the time. Wie is playing a Ladies European Tour tournament in Germany this week.
"My thoughts and prayers are with Lorena and her family at this time," Sorenstam said. "She is a tremendous ambassador for our game and we will miss her this week."
Ochoa, who has played nine of the last 11 LPGA events, was fined $25,000 by the LPGA for skipping the Corning Classic last week under a rule that requires players to compete in each event at least once in a four-year cycle. Sources close to the situation said Ochoa's withdrawal at the Ginn had nothing to do with the Corning fine, although the controversial rule is likely to be revisited at the end of this season.
With eight titles to defend this year, three events in Mexico, three majors she didn't win in 2007 and big-money events like the Ginn, it is difficult for Ochoa to find a week to take off.
She is scheduled to play next week at the McDonald's LPGA Championship, the second major of the season. Ochoa won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April and, having won the Ricoh Women's British Open last August, will be trying to join Babe Zaharias and Pat Bradley as the only two women in LPGA history to win three consecutive majors.
Ron Sirak is the executive editor of Golf World magazine