HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. (AP) — It doesn’t take much to motivate Lorena Ochoa at a major, especially now.
After a somber week in Mexico, she arrived at expansive Bulle Rock Golf Club knowing the history that awaits in what already is shaping up to be a historical season. A victory in the McDonald’s LGPA Championship would make her only the fourth player to win three straight majors, and the first since Pat Bradley in 1986.
She would love to stay on track for the Grand Slam – two more for the career slam, three for the calendar slam.
Beyond the record books, however, is something for her tight-knit family in Guadalajara. Ochoa had to leave the LPGA Tour last week when she learned her uncle had become seriously ill, and he died before she made it home.
“It’s more important now for my family,” Ochoa said. “I’d love to give them some joy.”
Pedro Ochoa, her father’s brother, was not able to go to the Kraft Nabisco Championship in early April, when Ochoa won the first major of the year and plunged into the lake with her family.
He had a stroke a week ago Sunday, followed by surgery, but doctors said he had leukemia in an advanced stage. He died on Wednesday, and Ochoa spent the rest of the week with her family.
“I didn’t get a chance to see him,” Ochoa said. “But it was nice to be home for my dad with my whole family and my relatives. We are a very close family. It was very tough, but in a way, I feel at peace. And I spent time with them.
“Now, I am back, and I’m very motivated,” she said. “I really want to play good, and in a way, it was good to have a little bit of a break and just get away from golf and try to see everything in a positive way.”
She looked refreshed and eager to get started on a Bulle Rock course that is longer this year, at 6,641 yards, so much extra length that with a breeze in her face, Ochoa needed a 5-wood to reach the par-4 18th green during her pro-am round.
Ochoa was tough to beat even before her week at home.
She already has won six times in nine tournaments, including one stretch of four straight victories.
“There’s a bunch of us trying to chase her,” defending champion Suzann Pettersen said.
Ochoa’s run on the majors began last year at the Women’s British Open, when she won at St. Andrews. She was equally dominant in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Later this month is the U.S. Women’s Open, where she has twice been in contention on the back nine.
But the LPGA Championship is one major she has never seriously contended.
Her best finish was a tie for fifth in 2005, six shots behind Sorenstam. A year ago, playing in her first major with the No. 1 ranking, she was five shots behind going into the last round and couldn’t keep up.
Now, golf feels easy.
She is coming off a victory in the Sybase Classic, the week Annika Sorenstam announced she would retire at the end of the year. And while Ochoa is intent on breaking records, she understands that majors are another dimension.
Asked in April if she could win the Grand Slam, she quickly and politely replied, “Yes.”
Nothing has changed.
“I think the same way,” she said. “I think it’s possible, and I have it in my head that those things only happen a few times in your career and here I am. And I’m going to make sure I give it a good try. I don’t want to put any extra pressure on myself, and I don’t want to talk too much about it. I’m just going to take it easy like any other tournament, like I always do.”
She is Mexico’s most celebrated female athlete, and she commands attention wherever she plays. But there is a working side to Ochoa that is hard to miss, and even Tuesday, she stayed on the practice green in the quiet afternoon.
These times are rare, and Ochoa conceded that obligations to sponsors, fans and the media have been tough.
“But it’s part of the package,” she said. “If you want to win, there are a lot of things that come with it. It’s a little bit harder, even more when I go to Mexico. If I win on Sunday, it will be harder.
“But it’s good. It’s like paying taxes, you know?” she said. “Hopefully, you pay a lot of taxes.”