Wednesday, September 30, 2009

PRATTVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Lorena Ochoa has made a habit of ending streaks at the Navistar LPGA Classic, whether she wanted to or not.

Ochoa beat Candie Kung with a 2-foot par putt on the second hole of a playoff last year after coming in winless in seven starts. Two years ago, Maria Hjorth kept the Mexican star from a fourth consecutive victory.

Ochoa hopes to snap an 11-tournament winless stretch dating back to the Corona Championship in late April. The $1.3 million Classic begins Thursday on the 6,546-yards, par-72 Senator Course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Capitol Hill in suburban Montgomery.

``I have nothing but good memories,'' Ochoa said Wednesday. ``I would love to win the tournament. I heard nobody has won the tournament twice, so it would be nice to put my name up there. I feel good playing on this course.''

She came fairly close to winning last week. Ochoa, who had won 21 times from 2006-08, finished four strokes behind winner Sophie Gustafson at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge in Danville, Calif.

Recent rains have changed the dynamics some in Prattville.

``I think I have a good plan on how to play the course,'' Ochoa said. ``It's playing a little bit longer because obviously it's a little bit wet and the rough is a little bit higher. So I think it should be a little bit different than last year.

``But at the same time, a good challenge. I'm happy to be back, and I'm going to do my best to defend my title. It would be great to win on Sunday.''

Gustafson, No. 3 money winner Cristie Kerr, Hjorth and Michelle Wie are also in the field. It's a chance for Kerr to make up some ground on Jiyai Shin, who leads her in the Rolex Player of the Year chase.

Wie returns from a short break for the start of classes at Stanford, where's she's taking communications and statistics courses.

She has six Top 10 finishes in 16 events, including a runner-up at the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay.

``I had a good two weeks off and a good week of school last week,'' Wie said. ``I'm excited to play again. I felt like I practiced a lot last week and it will be fun to put that into action.''

This is the 19-year-old's first time playing in the Navistar Classic and her first visit to Alabama. She likes the Southern flavor just fine so far.

``I love the food here, love the music. It's great,'' Wie said. ``Every other radio station here plays country music, so I'm pretty happy about that.''

She'd be even happier with her first LPGA victory.

``That's a goal I can't really control as much,'' Wie said. ``More of a personal goal is what I've been trying to accomplish all year: Try my hardest and play my hardest and end the week, knowing I've done that.''

DIVOTS: The LPGA announced an extension to hold the Navistar event next year on Wednesday. ... Susann Petterson withdrew from the field for the second straight week. ... The tour takes a three-week break after the tournament.

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