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Mexico's Ochoa shoots course-record 64, takes 3-stroke lead

Mexico's Ochoa shoots course-record 64, takes 3-stroke lead

Lorena Ochoa finally gave the hometown fans something to cheer about in shooting a course-record 9-under 64 to take a three-stroke lead after the second round of the Corona Morelia Championship on Friday.
The 24-year-old Ochoa, 2 under after an opening 71, had an eagle, eight birdies and a bogey on the Tres Marias course to finish at 11-under 135.
She birdied the first two holes and holed an 8-iron shot from 131 yards away for an eagle 2 on the 353-yard seventh, drawing a loud cheer from the 300 fans who followed her round, many clutching "Let's Go Lorena!" signs.
"It was an amazing day," Ochoa said. "This is my best round in my country with my people. It was a very special day and I will remember it for many, many years."
South Korea's Sun Young Yoo (67) had six birdies and no bogeys Friday and was second at 8 under. Kelli Kuehne (70) had an eagle on the par-5, 499-yard, eighth hole, three birdies and a double-bogey to climb to within another stroke back, while 19-year-old Paraguayan Julieta Granada (70) and Heather Young (70) followed at 6 under. Morgan Pressel (72), Wendy Ward (69) and Silvia Cavalleri (69) were 5 under.
But the day belonged to Ochoa, who has won three times this year and leads the U.S. LPGA Tour money list. However, she had struggled mightily during three previous U.S. LPGA Tour events in Mexico in the last two years.
She had looked indecisive and uncomfortable with all eyes on her during past events in Mexico, but struck drives, approaches and putts with confidence on Friday. She followed the eagle with four straight birdies, and also birdied No. 14 before taking her only bogey a hole later. A final birdie on 18 drew another roar from the crowd.
Friday's round should go a long way to putting an end to questions about her struggles in Mexico, but Ochoa laughed off suggestions she felt relieved.
"Right now I believe I can do better," she said. "I am really excited for the weekend."
Carved into rocky hillsides and featuring unforgiving drop-offs and narrow fairways, Morelia's 6,600-yard (6,035-meter), Jack Nicklaus-designed Tres Marias course is tough even under perfect conditions. But it surrendered low scores on Friday, with Yoo matching the course record of 6 under that Natalie Gulbis set in the first round last year.
Ochoa then broke the record decisively _ finally looking as if she had home course advantage, given that Morelia is about 175 miles (280 kilometers) from her native Guadalajara.
She has shrugged off questions about the money list, but leads the U.S. LPGA Tour in earnings with US$1,974,122 (euro1,552,000). If Ochoa stays strong in Morelia _ the purse is US$1 million (euro790,000), with US$150,000 (euro118,000) going to the winner _ she will top US$2 million (euro1.6 million) for the season, becoming just the second player to do so after world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam.
"I never think about numbers, about the money list or player of the year or how many tournaments I've won," Ochoa said. "I'm going to concentrate these next two days and if I win, what happens with everything else will happen."
Granada converted a 25-foot putt for birdie on the second hole and added birdies on Nos. 3, 5, and 8, but was short with her 9-iron and missed a 10-foot putt to take a bogey on No. 11. On No. 13, she missed a 6-foot putt for another bogey, but recovered with a birdie a hole later.
The 19-year-old Granada has never won on the U.S. LPGA Tour, but finished a stroke behind champion Jeong Jang at the Wegman's LPGA in June. Granada said her irons have been solid and that a better read of Tres Marias' fast greens would mean more birdies.
"I'm just going to play the same way," Granada said of the weekend. "I think I kind of figured out if I keep hitting like I hit it today, I'm going to be in good shape."
Young won for the first time in her career at last year's Jaime Farr Owens Corning Classic, and changed her last name from Bowie after marrying her longtime boyfriend and caddie in February. She started on the back nine and birdied No. 10 before converting an 18-foot putt for birdie on No. 13. She bogeyed the next hole after sending a 7-iron shot past the green, and had three birdies and a bogey after making the turn.
"I don't think about trying to lead," Young said. "I just try to give myself a good opportunity on every hole."
Brandie Burton began Friday with a one-stroke lead at 5 under, but had seven birdies wiped out by two bogeys, two double bogeys and a six on the par-3 13th. She finished with a 75 to drop to 3 under for the tournament.


Updated : 2021-07-26 13:58 GMT+08:00