May
3
2010
Goodbye Lorena, Hello Ai (and Jiyai)
By Stephanie Wei under General

Too bad there was no TV coverage, but thankfully GolfWeek’s Beth Ann Baldry was on-site. According to her, the vibe around the 18th green as Lorena Ochoa walked up the fairway in the final hole of her final tournament before retiring was a sentimental, poignant one. Baldry writes:

”[…] a sea of Mexicans waved white handkerchiefs and shouted her name. Their hero – in many cases, their first link to this glorious game – was saying goodbye. Ochoa wiped her eyes as she waved to the adoring crowd.

“I tried to put golf behind and just go through the motions and enjoy the moment,” said Ochoa, who closed with a 2-under 71 on May 2 to finish sixth. “I’m proud that I did that. I’m feeling good, happy.”

“Time for me to stay home, spend time with Andres (Conesa, her husband of less than five months)…Give the time back to my family.”

In other words, she’ll be barefoot in the kitchen. (Kidding! Kinda.)

Ochoa shared the spotlight with Ai Miyazato, who sunk a clutch eight-footer on the 18th to win the Tres Marias Championship for her third title in five starts this season. The always poised Miyazato kept her emotions in check until she started speaking about Ochoa, who chose her as her playing partner for the first two rounds. Via the AP:

”I want to say thanks to Lorena,” Miyazato said. ”I really appreciate what she did for the LPGA and what she did for her country here in Mexico.”

”She is one of my best friends,” she said, beginning to cry. ”I’m going to miss her.”

After waiting four years for her first LPGA victory, Miyazato won the Evian Masters last July. Winning this year’s season opening events in Singapore and Thailand and now the Tres Marias, she’s proof that sometimes it just takes one breakthrough for the trophies to start piling up.

With Lorena’s retirement, Ai is in the running to replace her as the world’s number one, but it won’t be this week. Jiyai Shin won on the Japan Tour and as of Monday, she’s surpassed Lorena in the rankings. Had Lorena finished one spot better at fifth, she would have reclaimed the throne for at least another week. But hey, when she walked off that last green at Tres Marias, she was still the Queen. And that’s not such a shabby way to go out.

Now will Shin be able to stay on top? Or will Miyazato overtake her? There’s also Yani Tseng, who won the first major of the season. Not to mention Suzann Pettersen is always a factor. And don’t forget Michelle Wie, who finished third at Tres Marias and currently sits at 9th in the world. Well, Lorena’s shoes will be big ones to fill, but there’s certainly no shortage of youthful talent.

[Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images]