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LPGA Hall of Fame's depth questioned

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — On her fast track to stardom, Lorena Ochoa took a detour this spring on a rainy Monday.

Unable to practice at the LPGA Tour event in Orlando, Ochoa and a friend stopped by the World Golf Hall of Fame for a visit that was unannounced and almost went unnoticed until a volunteer recognized her and alerted staff members.

Such is the humble nature of this 26-year-old dynamo from Mexico.

Odds are she will be back in five years for her induction.

The question is whether Ochoa still will be the best in women's golf. And there is sure to be renewed skepticism about the depth of the LPGA Tour, its points system for the Hall of Fame and why so many players can qualify at such a young age.

Ochoa won her eighth tournament of the year Sunday at the ADT Championship with what might have been the best shot of the year, a 6-iron out of thick rough over the water to 30 inches that clinched a two-shot victory and the $1 million prize.

She is No. 1 in the women's world ranking by a comparable margin to what Tiger Woods has over the men.

Likewise, she has no rival at the moment.

Lost in all the numbers - $4.3 million for the year, over $10 million for her career - was that she earned 11 points in 2007 toward the 27 points required by the LPGA Tour to be eligible for the World Golf Hall of Fame. That puts Ochoa at 22 points in only her fifth year on tour, and at this rate she will hit the magic number next season.

Then, it's a matter of waiting until she puts in 10 years. Her induction would be in 2012 at age 31.

Her victory at Trump International came six days after Se Ri Pak became the youngest player inducted into the Hall of Fame at age 30. The most recent active LPGA player to be inducted was Karrie Webb in 2005. She was two months away from turning 31.

PGA Tour players must wait until they are 40 before becoming eligible for the ballot, and even that seems young. Truth is, it's hard to find the right age for induction in a sport where no one ever retires.

Annika Sorenstam was so good that after she was inducted at 33, she earned the equivalent of 28 points the next three years by winning 21 times, four majors, two Player of the Year awards and a Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.

For years, the LPGA Tour had the toughest requirement of any shrine. Players had to win 30 times and two majors, 35 times with only one major or 40 times with no majors.

Fearful its Hall of Fame would turn into a museum if no one else qualified, the LPGA changed its criteria in 1999 to a points system. One point is awarded for a victory, Player of the Year award and Vare Trophy, two points for a major.

A year later, Sorenstam and Webb became eligible while in their 20s.

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