Monday, March 02, 2009

PATTAYA, Thailand (AP) — Lorena Ochoa doesn't mind the heat but has concerns about the winds that may confront players in the $1.45 million LPGA Thailand event.

The top-ranked Ochoa heads a field that includes all the world's top 10, beginning Thursday at the Siam Country Club's Pattaya Plantation course in this seaside tourist city.

Mexico's Ochoa will be playing her first tournament of the year, and is prepared to face the tropical heat and humidity.

``I like the weather because it's similar to Mexico. I can hit farther,'' Ochoa said. ``But the greens are hard and it's windy. So it depends on the wind, and it will be good if you are behind the wind. You just have to be patient.''

Ochoa will face a strong challenge from U.S. Open champion Inbee Park of South Korea, LPGA Championship title winner Yani Tseng of Taiwan and British Open winner Jiyai Shin of South Korea. Defending champion Suzann Pettersen of Norway will be back, as will the woman she beat in a dramatic finale, Britain's Laura Davies.

``I'm more excited than (feeling) under pressure,'' Ochoa said. ``I have had a long break and practiced hard and can't wait to start in a real competition.''

It has been 18 months since the event was last played, allowing a switch to early in the year, but that has not faded memories of Pettersen's 2007 victory, which she secured with a 15-foot eagle on the final hole.

``Those are memories for life,'' Pettersen said. ``I've seen some pictures of it since then. I had a double fist-pump right next to her face and I got a little joke back from her about fist pumping next to her and I learned my lesson.

``It's a great field we have here. We have pretty much all of the top players. There are other players who should feel more pressure than I do. Even though it's been 18 months since we were last here, I still feel like a little underdog.''

The tournament will also feature American Paula Creamer, third in the world rankings, who drew the largest galleries in 2007 with her trademark pink attire.

``I love playing in front of the crowd,'' said Creamer, who finished third at the 2007 tournament.

``The course is in immaculate shape, but it's tough to play when the winds blow. The greens are firm because they're new. It'll be interesting to see how the wind picks up tomorrow.''

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