O-Choke-A no more

Choke?  How could someone this smooth, this talented, this confident even know the meaning of the word?  But not even 12 months ago, Lorena Ochoa was known much more for blowing Sunday leads in majors than for anything else.

Watching her this morning in her 2nd round of the LPGA Championship, a round she called “easy”, Ochoa looks every the part of superstar.  She didn’t miss a fairway this morning at Bulle Rock, carding a tournament low 65.  And anyone that’s tackled the high end public course in Harford County knows just how impressive that feat is.

But more than the score, it’s the way she handles herself that makes her look ready to take the torch from Annika Sorenstam and lead the LPGA Tour.  She shrugs off any bad break and never gets too high after a great shot.  She mingles with the galleries, treats her opponents with respect, and plays with humility. 

After her round today, and in perfect contrast to the way Karrie Webb finished up, she showed how she gets it.  Webb walked by the gallery, ignored the fans, and tossed her ball into the water.  Granted, she had just made bogey, but as a former world number one she should be able to handle that and accept responsibility as a face of the game.  Ochoa meanwhile, sought out a little boy in the gallery and handed him her ball (the one she just coaxed into the hole from 20 feet for a birdie at the last).  The kids screamed thank you and then gracias, eliciting a great smile from Ochoa.

That gracious facade though camouflages a visceral, growing, needs to be fed desire to win.  She claimed her first major just last summer at the British Open.  Now it looks like she might never lose again.  She celebrated the start to the 2008 season with a five shot victory at the Kraft Nabisco for her 2nd straight major, and is the only person on the planet other than Trevor Immelman with the chance for a Grand Slam.  Any takers on the favorite between the two to get it done?




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