AP News

Ochoa finally gets a club endorsement

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (AP) — Lorena Ochoa might have been the only No. 1 player in golf without an equipment deal, although it was not as simple as signing on the dotted line.

The Mexican star already had endorsement deals that occupied the front of her hat (Banamex), her golf bag (Aeromexico) and her shirt (LaCoste), three of the best billboards for a golfer. Ping still managed to work out a deal Tuesday.

Ochoa, who has been playing Ping equipment for the last 10 years, finally will get paid to use it under a multiyear agreement that varies slightly from most Ping contracts. Terms were not disclosed.

Ping usually gets its logo on the hat and the bag. In this case, Aeromexico remains the dominant logo on the golf bag, with seven Ping logos built around it.

"This is different for us," said Chance Cozby, director of tour operations for Ping. "We're at a point where we can use her in our marketing message, and she had a lot of global exposure. We had to go outside the box to create a unique deal."

Ping requires its staff players to use at least 11 clubs, with the driver and putter mandatory. The Phoenix-based company will give Ochoa whatever time she needs to find the right putter. The rest of the equipment already was in place.

"They've been really loyal to me. I've been loyal to them," Ochoa said. "Every time I got to Ping in the offseason, they always take care of me. If there's some company that I'd like to represent, it would be them."

The deal took root in April at the Golf Writers Association of America annual dinner, where Ochoa was honored as female player of the year. John Solheim, chairman and CEO of Ping, was in the audience that night and was moved by Ochoa's classy acceptance speech.

"He came back to the house and said, 'Let's get moving on this,'" Cozby said.

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GOING TO THE DOGS: The final major on the LPGA Tour might be the biggest of the year. For the first time, the Women's British Open will be held on the Old Course at St. Andrews, the home of golf.

Along with playing the historic links where Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods each hoisted the claret jug, the women will be allowed in the Royal & Ancient clubhouse, which had been off limits.

"It's something everyone has been talking about for the last year, trying to get accommodations," Karrie Webb said. "`You never plan that far in advance for any tournament. I don't think there will be anyone who has a bad time that week."

Annika Sorenstam played the Old Course as an amateur, and called it a "big step for women's golf," especially considering the sign she recalls seeing at the amateur event.

"There was a sign out there that said, 'No dogs or women allowed,'" she said. ``Hopefully, they'll take it out for the week. I think it's going to be great for women, for us to go play there. I'm looking forward to that."

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BACK IN TIME: Karrie Webb won by eight shots the last time the U.S. Women's Open was held at Pine Needles, a performance so inspiring that she recently watched it on videotape.

That took some work, as it was only available on VHS.

"I just changed my whole entertainment unit," Webb said. "I don't have a VCR anymore, so I had to get someone to bring it over to the house, and then it was a process of plugging it into one of the TVs."

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IT'S ALL ABOUT MONEY: For all the promotion about FedEx Cup points this year, money means more to someone like Jay Williamson. He lost in a playoff in Hartford last week and didn't improve his standing in the FedEx Cup.

It's still at zero.

The FedEx Cup race is only for players who start the year with full membership on the PGA Tour. Williamson, who was 221st on the money list last year, is playing the Nationwide Tour and got into the Travelers Championship on a sponsor's exemption. The good news is that the $648,000 he earned is enough to get special temporary membership. And his runner-up finish got him into the Buick Open. But he still isn't eligible for FedEx Cup points unless he becomes a full member this year, which would require a victory.

Now comes the decision.

Williamson is No. 8 on the Nationwide money list - the top 25 get their cards - or he can try to get into more PGA Tour events and try to finish the equivalent of No. 125 on the PGA Tour money list and have a fuller choice of events to play.

"There's a lot of stuff going on that I need to educate myself on and just make sure that I make the right decision," he said.

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RADIO MAN: Chris DiMarco has joined the world of radio talk-show hots.

A sports nut and lifelong Florida Gators fan, he last week started "Opinionated with Chris DiMarco,"' which airs every Tuesday at 7 a.m. on the PGA Tour Network on XM radio. He is the first professional golfer to host a satellite radio show.

"We're going to take people behind the scenes to talk about what's really happening in the game of golf," DiMarco said. "The channel is all about golf, and our show will definitely be focused on the sport, but we're going to steer the conversation off the course from time to time."

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DIVOTS: Ernie Els is featured in the latest batch of FedEx Cup commercials, although his promotion sounded different in a news conference last week in Germany. Asked about his schedule, Els said he would play Loch Lomond and the British Open, take a week off and "start off on the FedEx Cup thingy." Once the laughter died, he said, "Yeah, exactly." ... Hunter Mahan became the youngest winner on the PGA Tour this year at 25 years, one month and seven days. ... Jay Haas has earned $5.7 million in 49 starts on the Champions Tour. He earned $14.4 million in 796 starts on the PGA Tour.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Foreign-born players outnumber Americans in the U.S. Women's Open for the first time.

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FINAL WORD: "The worst thing in life is when no one has any expectations of you, no one expects you to do great things." - Michelle Wie.

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