Ochoa Back in the Winner’s Circle, Wie Almost There
By Stephanie Wei under General

Lorena Ochoa, the world’s number-one player, finally broke a 5-month winless drought to defend her title at the Navistar LPGA Classic and secure her third victory of ‘09. She finished at a total 18-under to best Michelle Wie and Brittany Lang by four shots.

Until last month’s CN Canadian Open, Ochoa’s name was rarely seen among the leaderboard. Some people speculated that her recent engagement to Mexican airline executive Andres Conesa was a distraction and perhaps her heart just wasn’t in it anymore. Unfair, yes. But think about the scrutiny that would hit Tiger Woods if he went 5 months without a W — people have been up in arms just because he went 0 for 4 at the majors (easy to forget he won 6 “normal” tourneys).

Lest we forget, this is golf, a sport where even the best players endure slumps. The soft-spoken and always charming Ochoa gracefully answered the awkward yet inevitable questions about her recent struggles on the course:

I guess it’s hard to describe. It’s been not the easiest second part of year for me.
But the way I played the last few weeks and winning today, it means a lot. I been working hard, and I guess I’m proud, because it’s just a good feeling…I’m ready to keep playing good golf, and I would love to finish with a few more wins for the rest of the year.

And then there was Michelle Wie, who appears to be inching closer to her first victory on Tour. Despite an injured ankle, she fired the low round on Sunday with a brilliant 66 to place T2. She’s also resumed classes at Stanford. And continues to post her DIY fashion designs on her hot blog. Now, if she can just hurry up and win…

Ochoa and Wie weren’t even the biggest story of the week. 14-year-old Alexis Thompson earns that honor. She opened with scores of 65 and 69 to share the 36-hole lead. Her stellar play even piqued the attention of Sportscenter! But she followed with back-to-back 74s over the weekend to finish T27. Still, kinda decent, you know, especially for a ninth grader.

So there you have it, a great week for women’s golf — notwithstanding the news of Samsung dropping its sponsorship of the World Championship — but on the upside, State Farm renewed their contract a day earlier. The one cause for concern I have is the hype surrounding Thompson. She’s a fantastic player, but remember what happened last time the media and LPGA jumped all over a teen prodigy «couchMichelleWiecough»? Different circumstances. Different person. Yeah, yeah. And though she’s been playing beyond her years and handling the media attention with poise, she’s a kid. Like I wrote in July, proceeding with caution is advised. Hindsight, people!

For now, let’s cross our fingers for a Michelle Wie win before the season’s end. Then the LPGA, media and fans can all get together for a sing-a-long to rejoice! And oh yeah, it would be happy days for Michelle, too.

[Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images]