The most dominant golfer in the world is off to another stellar start in 2008, having absolutely dominated the first few events of the season.
Meanwhile, Tiger Woods finished in second place at the Masters.
Even if you consider yourself nothing more than a casual golf fan, there is a good chance you’ve never heard of Lorena Ochoa, winner of four of seven events on the LPGA tour this year.
Allow me to make the introduction: Ochoa is a 27-year old phenom who grew up next to the Guadalajara Country Club in Mexico. She started golfing at age five and won her first state event the following year.
Ochoa captured her first national event at age seven, then went on to win another 21 state events and 43 national tournaments in Mexico, as well as five consecutive titles at the Junior World Golf Championship.
Ochoa later played collegiate golf at the University of Arizona, where she earned Player of the Year honours in both 2001 and 2002. She won eight of the 10 tournaments she entered in her sophomore year, including an NCAA record seven-consecutive victories to start the season.
She set the single-season NCAA scoring average as a freshman, then beat her own record the following year.
In 2001, Ochoa was the recipient of Mexico’s highest athletic honour, the National Sports Award, which she received from President Vicente Fox. She was the nation’s youngest ever recipient and the only golfer to ever take the award.
And she had yet to play a single round of professional golf.
When Ochoa turned pro in 2003, her dominance continued: Eight top-10 finishes in her rookie year. Ninth on the money list. A year later, she became the first Mexican-born player to win on the LPGA.
She also finished in the top 10 in three of the four majors on the tour. In 129 professional events (LPGA and Futures Tour combined), Ochoa has missed only four cuts.
Coming into the 2008 season, Ochoa had earned 57 top-three finishes in only 127 LPGA events. She has placed within the top 10 in 62.1 percent of the tournaments she has entered.
Ochoa became the first player to earn $4 million in a season, and was the fastest to earn $10 million in a career. She also overtook Annika Sorenstam to become the top ranked women’s golfer in the world.
Last year, Ochoa was the top-ranked player in rounds under par, rounds in the 60s, greens in regulation, putts per green in regulation, and total birdies. She won her eight tournaments by nearly a three-stroke average.
This year, Ochoa already has claimed wins in four of seven tournament events. Of course, to be fair, she didn’t enter the first two. And she only finished four strokes back in the other.
But her wins have been as impressive a display of golf as you are likely to see on either the men’s or women’s tours. In Singapore at the HSBC Women’s Champions event, Ochoa won by an 11-stroke margin.
Two weeks later, she finished in a tie for eighth, but rebounded to win three-consecutive tournaments. Ochoa took the Safeway International by seven strokes. Then the Kraft Nabisco Championship by five strokes.
This past weekend, she won in her native Mexico at the Corona Championship by 11 strokes again.
She is the most dominant player in golf today. So why don’t you know who she is?
Unlike other high-profile golfers who lend their visage to the highest bidder regardless of the product, Ochoa goes the other way. Less is more. Even as the number 1-ranked female golfer in the world, she didn’t have an equipment deal until last year when she signed with Ping.
Ochoa lets her play do the talking for her.
So the next time you’re watching that other No. 1 steamroll the field at a nationally-televised PGA event, consider this: The men aren’t nearly as scared of Tiger as the women are of Lorena.
And that’s what domination is all about.
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