Ochoa to announce retirement Friday

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Baldry: Ochoa retirement timing a shock

Lorena Ochoa always spoke about retiring early, but why this soon? Beth Ann Baldry weighs in.

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Lorena Ochoa is expected to announce details of her retirement at a press conference at 9:30 a.m. Friday EDT in Mexico City, the LPGA has confirmed. The World No.1 was married last December to AeroMexico CEO Andres Conesa and has 27 LPGA victories in eight seasons on the LPGA.

“She wasn’t enjoying it as much,” said Sophia Sheridan, a longtime friend from Guadalajara who spoke with someone from the Ochoa camp. “She wasn’t having any fun, no motivation to practice. Why go on?”

Ochoa has played four times in 2010, with her best finish a fourth-place at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She was visibly upset in the final round, spiking her ball into the 13th green after a three-putt. That type of outburst has become more frequent for Ochoa in recent months.

For years, Ochoa has said she will not continue playing competitive golf once she is ready to start a family. The tour gave no further details and would not comment until after Ochoa speaks Friday.

Sheridan said Ochoa will play at the Tres Marias Championship in Morelia, Mexico, on April 29-May 2. Ochoa earned enough points to become the second-youngest player eligible for the Hall of Fame when she won the 2008 Corona Championship in Morelia. She needed to play 10 seasons on the tour, however, to qualify.

“I’m really shocked,” Suzann Pettersen said. “I did not see this coming.”

Ochoa’s exodus will be the second time in three years that the LPGA has lost the top-ranked player in the world. In May 2008, Annika Sorenstam, then 37, announced her intention to retire. She was 38 when she quit later that year. Since then, she got married and gave birth to a daughter.

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“Though I was older than Lorena, it is still hard to play and play at the level you demand of yourself when your heart and mind are somewhere else,” Sorenstam wrote on her blog.

Ochoa, perhaps the best-known non-soccer athlete in Mexico, made the announcement April 20 on her website after Mexican media reports speculated about a pending retirement.

“Lorena Ochoa confirms her retirement from the LPGA, as news reports in some media have said today,” her statement read. “The reasons and more details on the matter will be given by Lorena personally in a press conference on Friday in Mexico City. Lorena will share this news of a new stage in her life with her sponsors, family members and friends.”

Judy Rankin, a Hall of Famer and TV analyst, told The Associated Press that she was “crushed” upon hearing the news.

“We won’t get to see her play golf,” Rankin said. “Mostly, we won’t get to see her.”

Ochoa’s retirement is a blow to the LPGA, which has been struggling in a tough economy and has only 25 tournaments this year, 14 of them in the United States.

Ochoa was defined as much by her dominance as her graciousness. Mindful of her heritage, she often would go to the maintenance barn during LPGA events and speak with the workers, many of them from Mexico.

She rose to No. 1 in 2006 by winning six times, and she captured her first major at St. Andrews a year later by winning the Women’s British Open. Ochoa’s other major was the 2008 Kraft Nabisco Championship. She won four consecutive Player of the Year awards, from 2006 to ’09.

“While the LPGA will certainly miss her great play, warm demeanor and smile, I am personally very happy for her,” Sorenstam said. “The most rewarding days are ahead of her, and I wish her all the best.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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