Alfredsson lights up Sybase with 62
CLIFTON, N.J. – Lorena Ochoa is going to have to stage one of the biggest comebacks of her career to win a fourth consecutive Sybase Classic.
Helen Alfredsson jump-started a career-best, 10-under 62 by holing out for eagle from 68 yards on her second hole, and took a two-stroke lead over Brittany Lincicome after the opening round on Thursday.
Ochoa, who has won this event at two different courses, was nine shots behind the long-hitting Alfredsson. Besides the eagle, the Swede had nine birdies and a bogey at Upper Montclair Country Club on a cold, damp day punctuated by an intermittent drizzle and chilling breeze.
Alfredsson’s round was the lowest on tour this year, and it left Ochoa with 54 holes to play catch up. Her biggest come-from-behind win was in 2004, when she rallied from five shots down in the final round to win the Wachovia LPGA Classic.
Ochoa overcame a four-shot deficit in this event three years ago, when it was played at Wykagyl in New York.
“I had birdie chances, like on 18, that just didn’t go,” Ochoa said. “But I’m happy. I’m very good with the speed. I had a couple that got away and had to save par, so I feel good. Tomorrow, maybe, some of them will drop.”
Only two other women have won the same LPGA event four years in a row. Annika Sorenstam won five straight Mizuno Classics in Japan from 2001-05, and Laura Davies won four straight Standard Register PING titles in Arizona from 1994-97.
That doesn’t mean No. 1-ranked Ochoa can be written off yet.
“As far as I know, this is a four-round tournament,” said Suzann Pettersen, who was third after a 7-under 65. “That’s all I can say.”
The 44-year-old Alfredsson made the game look easy, hitting fairways and greens all day. After starting on the back nine, the former European Solheim Cup captain eagled No. 11, birdied the 12th and chipped in from the edge of the green on the 13th for another birdie. Even with a bogey on No. 15, she shot 6-under 30 on the back side.
Alfredsson also birdied the par-4 first, one of eight birdies from 8 feet or less. She played the four par-5s in 4 under.
“Anybody, when we play good, you wonder why you don’t do this all the time, because it’s so easy,” she said. “It’s not strenuous, your head is not going crazy, your body doesn’t hurt. At my age, all that stuff usually comes along with it. So you don’t know why. I just felt that it’s just one of those days.”
Lincicome also had one of those days, particularly on the greens. The recent Kraft Nabisco Championship winner needed only 25 putts, holing two 15-footers and a 30-footer. She capped her round by chipping in for eagle from 17 yards at the par-5 18th on the traditional, tree-lined course just outside New York City.
Like Alfredsson and Pettersen, Lincicome also is a long hitter.
“If I can keep it in play and putt well, watch out,” said the 23-year-old Floridian, who won the 2006 HSBC Match Play Championship in New Jersey.
Lincicome stopped short of saying she’s become a Jersey girl, though. The 23-year-old likes fishing, being on the water and driving her pickup truck – but she doesn’t mind driving in the Garden State, either.
“You can speed, you don’t have to use a blinker and there’s no cops,” she quipped. “Knock on wood.”
Since winning the Nabisco – her first major – Lincicome has missed the cut at the Corona Championship and tied for 63rd last week.
“I really would like to learn how to be like Annika, be like Lorena and be more consistent and be at the top of the leaderboard every week,” Lincicome said. “That would be nice.”
Pettersen, who has four top-10 finishes this year, had nine birdies, two bogeys and a nice save on No. 18. She hit her second shot into the water near the green and then chipped to a foot with her fourth before saving par.
Pettersen, who lives close to Alfredsson in Orlando, said that the Swede turned her game around last year after overcoming a back injury.
“She hits more greens than a lot of us,” Pettersen said. “She’s a streaky player. When she gets hot, she’s hot. Obviously she played pretty good today.”
Ji Young Oh of South Korea was four shots off the lead after a 66, and Karrie Webb, Michelle Wie, Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer were all at 2 under.