MORELIA, Mexico -- Lorena Ochoa will have a home-course advantage today when the LPGA Tour makes its second stop of the year south of the border for the Corona Morelia Championship.
The former University of Arizona star won twice last year to become the first Mexican-born champion in LPGA Tour history. She grew up in Guadalajara, the country's second-largest city, just 175 miles northwest of this picturesque city known for its colonial architecture and homemade sweets.
"It's a dream to play close to my city, to my fans, in my country," Ochoa said. "Since I got here, I've felt good with my group of people, my parents, all of my supporters."
Ochoa set tour records for birdies (442), rounds under par (75), and rounds in the 60s (51) in 2004, but her professional return to her homeland didn't go as smoothly as planned early last month at the MasterCard Classic in Huixquilucan.
There, she looked nervous in the opening rounds and had to rally to finish fifth, five strokes behind winner Annika Sorenstam.
"There was a lot of stress, a lot of pressure, good pressure, but pressure," she said. "As a professional, so many experiences this year have helped. I matured a lot."
She said she wouldn't be nervous for this tournament, held at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Tres Marias Golf Club.
"The pressure I felt was because of so much emotion, because we waited so long [for a tournament in Mexico] and because of the press and the fans," Ochoa said. "This week I have to take advantage of feeling good, arriving feeling more calm and relaxed."
Sorenstam and many other top players are skipping this week's event, but the 122-player field includes Jennifer Rosales, who won the SBS Open in Hawaii in February, and Wendy Ward, who won for the first time in nearly four years last weekend at the Takefuji Classic in Las Vegas.
Ward, the 1994 US women's amateur champion, beat Ochoa by two strokes in the desert. Rookie Paula Creamer, who finished third last week, will also play in Morelia.
Before this year, Mexico's last tour event was the Bing Crosby International, played in 1974 and 1975 in Guadalajara.