REUNION, Fla. (AP) — The Ginn Open has plenty of story lines.
All but two of this year’s top 50 LPGA Tour money winners are in the field. Morgan Pressel, the 18-year-old who is fresh off her first win at the season’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, is playing just two hours north of her home. And 50-year-old Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez picked this event to start a comeback.
Then there’s perhaps the biggest story of all: Annika vs. Lorena.
The ongoing battle for the No. 1 spot in the women’s world rankings continues this week, with Annika Sorenstam trying to hang on to her place atop that list, and Lorena Ochoa — last year’s player of the year — inching ever closer to supplanting her.
A victory for Ochoa this week might be enough to get her there.
“I’m not in a hurry,” Ochoa said Wednesday. “I’ve been waiting for five years and I’ve been waiting for many, many years. … If it happens this week or if it happens in three weeks or five weeks, that’s OK, too.”
Sorenstam has had many challengers over the years during her reign as the best women’s player, notably Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak. Now the closest pursuer is Ochoa, and Sorenstam was asked Wednesday if she relishes when someone challenges her to be at her very best.
“I’m not really sure I do,” Sorenstam said.
To win this week — a $2.6 million event, the third-biggest on the LPGA slate this year, with $390,000 to the champion — Sorenstam or anyone else in the field will probably have to be at their best.
Only 23 of the 83 players who made the cut here in 2006 broke par for the week, and if anything, the sense is that the 6,505-yard course at the Reunion Resort may be playing longer and tougher this year.
“It feels like a little bit of a major tournament,” said defending champion Mi Hyun Kim of South Korea.
It’s not a major, but it’s got plenty of major winners — including Lopez, a three-time major champion who’s making her return and believes that she’s ready to compete again, even though her last LPGA victory was a decade ago.
Lopez has lost nearly 40 pounds during the past year, says she’s hitting the ball well and believes that — if her body holds up — she could be vying for top-10 finishes.
“To me, the LPGA has always been my second family and I’ve always enjoyed being a part of the tour,” said Lopez, who went on a farewell tour five years ago and believed then that her competitive fire was out. “I respect my tour. I think it’s a great tour. Some days I get a little angry because I don’t feel like we get the attention we deserve because we have some of the best athletes in golf.”
And right now, the two best on the LPGA are Sorenstam and Ochoa, in that order — at least for now.
Ochoa’s scoring average this season is nearly a full stroke better than Sorenstam’s, and there’s no argument — not even from Sorenstam — that Ochoa has put up better numbers than the Swede over the past year. Still, Sorenstam insists that she’s not fixated on what Ochoa is doing.
“Right now I’m just trying to focus on my own game,” Sorenstam said. “I’ve never really felt like I needed somebody to push me. I push myself enough. Is it fun with the competition? I love it. Like I said, Lorena is playing excellent.”
Ochoa shot a final round of 6-under 66 at the Ginn last year to make a charge, and finished two shots behind Kim. She says she likes the course, and will undoubtedly like it more if she can win this week and possibly wake up Monday as the No. 1 player.
“Golf is a funny game,” Ochoa said. “Things can change really quick. You can play good and you can play bad. But I see myself in that position. I believe and I have faith in me and I know that’s my dream.”