Corona Morelia Tournament Preview: Viva Mexico!

Lorena Ochoa gets a second chance to make an impression in her native Mexico at the Corona Morelia Championship.

LPGAThe ladies of the LPGA don their sombreros and fly south of the border for this week’s championship tournament. For the second time this year and only the fourth time ever, the LPGA has chosen a destination in Mexico. Tres Marias Residential Golf Club in Morelia, Mexico, a Jack Nicklaus design, is the site of this $1 million inaugural event and it’s sure to be exciting. Native-born Lorena Ochoa, who carded a 63 mid-round at the Takefuji last week and finished solo second, will be among the competitors along with the event winner, Wendy Ward.

Knowing this course well and having a flurry of family, friends and media attention surrounding Ochoa can do one of two things to the only LPGA player from Mexico: it can raise Lorena’s confidence level or it could put a lot of pressure on her, causing her to choke as she did at both the Mastercard and the Safeway competitions earlier in the season. If last week was any indication of her skill level, she should be able to pull off a win this week.

Johnnie Walker Classic Preview

Miguel Angel Jimenez looks to defend his Johnnie Walker Classic title against an impressive field that includes Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.

jimenez_johnnie_walker.jpgThe Johnnie Walker Classic will visit mainland China for the first time this week, as Ernie Els and Retief Goosen lead an impressive field.

Goosen is the current leader of The European Tour Order of Merit and World Number Five. He looks to continue his success after a third place finish at the Masters two weeks ago. Els on the otherhand, looks to regain some of his success from earlier in the year when he had back-to-back wins in Dubai and Qatar.

Other players joining Els and Goosen include Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Luke Donald and defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez. Donald is looking to continue his good play as of late, finishing tied for third (with Goosen) at his first trip to the Masters in Augusta, Georgia.

Has Tiger Lost His Sunday Roar?

The final round at The Masters was a breath of fresh air for golf fans.

Thrash TalkIn the first edition of Thrash Talk, I talked about guys who I thought had great chances at winning their first ever major championship in 2005. This week, I’m going to spice things up a little by talking about Tiger Woods’ “Sunday Roar” – or lack thereof – at Augusta.

In my majors prediction article, I picked Chris DiMarco to win The Masters because he is such a great competitor and has played well at Augusta in the past. As we know, he came up one stroke short of winning a green jacket. The man that beat him with a birdie on the first playoff hole was none other than Tiger Woods, who claimed his fourth green jacket that very day. But this wasn’t the same Tiger that fans have become accustomed to seeing in final rounds of major championships when holding the 54-hole lead.

Is Chris DiMarco America’s New Underdog?

After fighting to the end at this year’s Masters against Tiger Woods, Chris DiMarco has proven once again that he is the best player whom has not won a major yet.

dimarco_fistpump.jpgHe may not have the most attractive swing or win the ladies over with a long drive, but he gets the job done – almost. Chris DiMarco is like the average person out for a day of golf, but he’s regularly in contention at the majors.

With television ratings of the 2005 Masters tournament as high as they’ve been since 2001, Chris DiMarco has become a household name. Just ask my mother! If you don’t like Chris DiMarco, you should be pulling for him now. It is his turn to finally win a major tournament. After all, it’s our nature to side with the underdog, and Chris DiMarco is America’s New Underdog. He’s this year’s Phil Mickelson. Mickelson was a crowd favorite in the past years not only because of his playing ability but also because he had not won a major. People also like Phil because he is left-handed and they can shout “Lefty! Lefty!”. How long until we hear “Claw! Claw!”?

Volume Five

This week we talk about Natalie Gulbis, Johan Lindeberg, Golden Tee, Segways and Drugs.

If anyone is reading Hittin’ the Links, I’d love to know about it. There hasn’t been one comment since the inception of this column. I can’t tell if this space is everything you’ve ever wanted or if it’s the biggest piece of crap and it doesn’t even register on your radar. Even though you’re not talking, here’s a few more links to tickle your pickle.

Lonard Outlasts Clarke En Route to First PGA Tour Victory

Peter Lonard limps home and seizes the MCI Heritage from an also-faltering Darren Clarke.

Peter LonardAfter leading early, struggling, and regaining the lead, Peter Lonard limped home to his first PGA Tour victory, carding a +4 round of 75 on Hilton Head’s famed course at the MCI Heritage Classic. Lonard’s partner in the final pairing, Irishman Darren Clarke, didn’t fare much better and was wheeled on a gurney through two bogeys and two double bogeys in the last six holes to shoot a dismal 76.

Darren Clarke began the day at -10, trailing Lonard by one. After three straight birdies and a Lonard error or two, the lead flipped and the margin grew to four by the fifth hole: Clarke -13, Lonard -9. Sadly, for both players it was downhill from there.

Ward Triumphs at 2005 Takefuji Classic

Wendy Ward wins her first LPGA title in four years at the 2005 Takefuji Classic.

WardTakefujiWin.jpgWendy Ward secured her fourth LPGA victory with a bogey-free round and a final score of 16-under par, finishing just two strokes ahead of Mexican Lorena Ochoa. Confidently aiming for the fairways and pin-hunting, Ward exclaimed, “I’m just tickled about the way I played today.” On the second hole, a 385-yard par 4, Ward took her 58-degree wedge to within three feet. On holes 6, 9, 12, and 16, Wendy played short shots to within ten feet, birdying each time. Wendy’s sport psychologist, Debbie Crews, played a role in helping Wendy’s mental game. She told Crews she was trying as hard as she could, and Crews said, “I want you to quit trying and start believing.”

Lonard Leap-Frogs Clarke To Regain The Lead

Peter Lonard recaptures the lead at the MCI Heritage while paired with second round leader Darren Clarke.

Peter LonardPeter Lonard proved that he knows how to stick with the competition starting the third round six strokes behind Darren Clarke and shooting a 6-under 66. He overtook Clarke by one stroke and found a measure of redemption after a disappointing 74. Lonard had an impressive six birdies throughout the day with the most memorable a 57 foot putt on the 15th hole. Apparently this putt was the longest ever shot from a blimp (for all you trivia nuts out there).

Lonard said, “I played as solid as I could have dreamed and unfortunately for Darren it didn’t work out his way. I can’t wait to get out tomorrow, I feel like I’ve been playing pretty good for the last month or so and getting no returns. Tee to green was solid, my chipping was great, and I hit a lot of good putts so I can’t ask for anymore. I’ve just got to go in tomorrow and see if I can do the same as what I did today.”

Lonard Struggles, Clarke Takes Control At Harbour Town

Darren Clarke shot his second straight 65 to take a commanding lead at the MCI Heritage.

Darren ClarkeAll the golfers at the MCI Heritage forgot to tell Darren Clarke that the course was playing pretty tough on Friday. He carded six birdies and zero bogeys in the second round to take a six-shot lead into the weekend. His total of 12-under par after two rounds is only one off the record set by Jack Nicklaus in 1975. Clarke attributes his great play at this golf course to just feeling comfortable. “I knew I liked the golf course and that’s why I’ve kept coming back,” he said. “It’s easier to play on a golf course you’re comfortable on than one that you’re not. I’m enjoying myself and playing pretty solid golf.”