LPGA's Little Tower Of Power
TAMPA - Lorena Ochoa's drive to be the best can be directly linked to her drive off the tee. Currently, she is better than anybody on the LPGA Tour. She looks barely big enough to drive a golf cart, but there's Ochoa, all 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds of her, leading the LPGA with a 277.5-yard driving average. It's easy to look at John Daly and understand where he gets the power to crush the ball. With Ochoa, it's all of her slight body parts working together. "It's a combination of everything," Ochoa said. "It's strong legs, and I move my hips really quick. I go to the gym and lift weights. I have angles at the top of my backswing that create more speed when I hit. A little bit of everything."It begins with proper technique. Ochoa generates a lot of her power from her shoulders and back, but it's the perfect position of her arms that allows her to uncoil that power and smash the ball off the tee. "She has great posture and great extension," Golf Channel analyst Dottie Pepper said. "What she does better than anybody else is trust the golf swing that she has, and it repeats." Since her rookie season in 2003, Ochoa has developed into one of the hardest hitters on the tour but also one of the most consistent. She also leads the tour in greens hit (81 percent). One of the keys to her consistency is her workout routine in the offseason. Ochoa runs regularly and hits the weights hard. She also varies her exercise. Ochoa likes to snow ski, water ski and also has competed in marathons and triathlons. When she was 17, she competed in an ecothon, a grueling competition comprising biking, swimming in a chilly lake, kayaking and rappelling. Participants were dropping out of the race left and right, but not Ochoa. She was the youngest competitor to finish. Ochoa also started paying closer attention to her diet. The past two years, she cut out sugar and reduced her fat intake. As a result, her body-fat count decreased from 22 percent to about 18. Seminole resident Brittany Lincicome, another golfer long off the tee with a 271.4 average, believes there's a direct link to working out and being a better golfer. Tiger Woods led the way for the men's tour, while Annika Sorenstam paved the way for the women. "The farther you hit it, obviously the shorter the golf courses get," Lincicome said. "I think that's why everyone works out, so they can hit it farther and be able to play five-hour rounds of golf and be able to start like they finish. It's definitely a huge part of it, to be able to hit it far and obviously straight, but definitely far." Ochoa's distance off the tee has allowed her to hone her iron skills and work on her short game. It has paid off. The world's No. 1 golfer has won five times this season, including a record-tying four weeks in a row. After a week off resting at home in Mexico, she returns for this week's SemGroup Championship in Tulsa, Okla. Throughout her victory streak, Ochoa found herself with birdie chances on nearly every hole. Her aggressiveness also sets her up for low rounds. "I've improved in the course management," Ochoa said. "I'm an aggressive player, and I'm not going to change that." Why change what's not broken? Ochoa's victories this year have been by an average of nearly seven strokes. She's not just beating her competitors, she's crushing them. Just like her drives. "I'm just trying to enjoy my moment," Ochoa said. "I've been working hard. This has been something that took me a long time to achieve. It's not something that happened in a couple of days or a couple of months. "I'm going to continue just motivating myself, practicing hard and hopefully I stay at the top for a long time."
Reporter Katherine Smith can be reached at (813) 259-7860 or [email protected]