Cheered on by a big, enthusiastic gallery, Lorena Ochoa left her pursuers in the desert dust yesterday to defend her title at the
The 26-year-old sensation shot a 6-under-par 66 to finish at 22-under 266 to win for the second time in three tries in the young LPGA Tour season.
It was the lowest score, by four shots, in the five years the tournament has been held at Superstition Mountain (Ariz.) Golf and Country Club.
Ochoa turned the tournament into a rout with birdies on the 13th, 14th, and 15th holes, then punctuated her 19th career tour victory with a birdie tap-in on the 18th.
"It was a great day," she said, "especially the back nine."
The world's No. 1-ranked female golfer and the LPGA Tour player of the year the past two seasons won eight times last year and has 16 victories in her last 53 starts.
Among those who followed her every move around the course in the large gathering was a man who waved a big Mexican flag.
"It was very nice to see the support and feel the love. They care so much," said Ochoa, who earned $225,000. "They know that I play not only for me but for all of them."
Jee Young Lee, who began the day one shot back, shot an even-par 72 to finish at 15 under.
Minea Blomqvist of Finland (66) was third at 14 under, her best LPGA finish.
PGA - Andres Romero won the Zurich Classic in his 12th career start on the Tour, closing with a 4-under 68 three hours before the other contenders finished en route to a one-stroke victory over Peter Lonard in Avondale, La.
Romero, a shot behind John Merrick yesterday morning after the completion of the third round, had a 13-under 275 total on the TPC Louisiana course and earned $1,116,000.
Speaking through an interpreter, Romero said he was very relaxed during the wait in the players lounge to see if his score would hold up.
"I had some lunch and called home and told my mom," he said. "They had to do the job, because I had already done mine."
Lonard had a chance to force a playoff but missed a long birdie putt on No. 18.
Lonard opened with a pair of birdies, bogeyed Nos. 3 and 10, then birdied Nos. 8, 11, 14, and 16 to tie Romero at 13 under. The Australian's putt for par on 17 stopped 4 inches shy of the cup, and his par on 18 left him with a 69.
The consolation for Lonard - besides the $669,600 second-place money - is that the runner-up finish should get him into the Masters by moving him from No. 72 to No. 50 in the world. This was the final week to earn a spot at Augusta National through the world ranking.
Nationwide - Gavin Coles won the Louisiana Open for his fourth career Nationwide title, closing with a 1-under 70 for a one-stroke victory over Kyle Thompson in Broussard, La.
Coles, 39, had a 12-under 272 total and earned $94,500. After playing the first eight holes in 1 under with three birdies and two bogeys, he parred the final 10 holes.
"I walked on the 10th tee and I knew I wasn't playing that good," said Coles, one of the tour's shortest players at 5 feet 4 inches. "I knew I needed to suck it up. I just had to play the best nine holes that I could to get the job done. I'm just glad no one was making birdies."
Champions - Bernhard Langer won the Ginn Championship for his second Champions victory in three starts, shooting a 1-under 71 in Palm Coast, Fla., for an eight-stroke victory over Lonnie Nielsen and Tim Simpson.
European - Thomas Levet won the Andalucia Open in Puerto Banus, Spain, by besting 19-year-old Oliver Fisher in a one-hole playoff.
Levet parred the extra hole after Fisher, who held a three-stroke lead with six holes to play, had bogeyed. Both players shot 5-under 67s in the final round to finish at 16-under 272.