HUIXQUILUCAN, Mexico (AP) — Fans lined the fairways to cheer for Lorena Ochoa, the No. 1 player in the world and the hometown favorite at the MasterCard Classic.
Other than that, Ochoa’s homecoming wasn’t a happy one. She shot her highest score in nearly a year Friday, a 76 that left her nine strokes behind first-round leader Jill McGill.
“It was not a very good day. I played really badly,” Ochoa said. “I made a lot of mistakes I shouldn’t have made.”
Fresh off an 11-stroke victory in her season debut in Singapore two weeks ago, Ochoa was widely expected to dominate play this weekend at the Bosque Real Country Club outside Mexico City, where she is a budding national hero praised for her courage and strength by President Felipe Calderon.
Instead, she had six bogeys and two birdies on the hilly course, racking up her highest score since a 77 in the final round of the Ginn Open last April.
McGill, the 1993 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion who is winless in 13 seasons on the LPGA Tour, meanwhile eagled the 541-yard ninth, her last hole, for a 5-under 67. She also had five birdies and two bogeys.
“I let it unfold and felt calm and comfortable and enjoyed myself out there today,” McGill said. “I was not going to think about anything mechanical, just hit shots. I was tired of trying to be so perfect playing golf.”
South Korea’s Ji-Young Oh and Taiwan’s Yani Tseng opened with 68s, while Eva Dahllof shot a 69, and Pat Hurst, Gloria Park, Candie Kung and Eunjung Yi had 70s.
Meaghan Francella, a playoff winner last year over 2006 champion Annika Sorenstam, shot a 10-over 82 with eight bogeys and a double bogey, playing alongside Ochoa. Sorenstam is skipping this weekend’s event, the first of three this year in Mexico.
Ochoa, one of a handful of Mexican athletes to rise to the top of their sport, is an 18-time LPGA Tour winner, but has only one victory in seven LPGA Tour starts in Mexico – the 2006 Corona Championship in Morelia. At Bosque Real, she tied for sixth last year, her best finish there.
“It’s a punishing course,” Ochoa said. “It’s really key to have good first shots to put the ball on the fairway.”
Surrounded by well-wishers who cheered “Lo-re!” across the fairways on Friday, Ochoa struggled off the tee and on the greens.
“It was a tough start,” she said. “I had some bad luck drives that left me in really bad spots, but the error was on the greens. I had really bad speed on the long putts.”
Asked if she was sad or angry with Friday’s results, Ochoa simply said “both.”
“Tomorrow, like always, I’m going to play, and try to get a lot of birdies to recover,” she said. “There are still two days left to do well and I’m going to try to get the score down, to do the best possible.”