Ochoa enjoying the home crowd in Guadalajara
GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Lorena Ochoa stood on the second tee box and rested her chin ever so briefly on the shoulder of her caddie. In the fairway, she gave him a love pat as they discussed her options for the approach. AeroMexico CEO Andres Conesa, the only caddie this week who needed his own security detail, was hard at work for his wife, who happens to be a national icon here in Mexico. Ochoa went on to birdie the second hole from 15 feet, and it looked like she might get off to the strong start she talked about. Unfortunately, rust prevailed.
“It was really difficult for me,” said Ochoa, who opened the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Nov. 11 with a 2-over 74. “I didn’t have any control on my shots.”
Ochoa, who at least looked sharp in her black and white ensemble, air-mailed the par-5 18th green with her third shot and then sent her fourth scurrying past the hole some 50 feet. She three-putted from there for double-bogey, but still managed to give the crowds a smile. After all, she is retired.
Ochoa hit four balls over the green during her roller-coaster round. She got stuck in the trees on the par-4 fifth and made double-bogey. A three-putt bogey on the par-5 ninth was another disappointment. Ochoa grew up a pitching wedge from the first tee at Guadalajara Country Club, making it all the more frustrating not to be able to score.
Still, one gets the impression that anytime Ochoa can spend the day walking alongside her husband it’s a good day. When she got up and down out of the bunker on the fourth hole the pair shared a fist bump. It’s unknown if they were celebrating her par or Conesa’s raking skills.
“I was very impressed,” said Ochoa, who has worked with Conesa on his looping etiquette the last several months. “He was taking care of his, how do you say ... his duties.”
Conesa, incidentally, wore an AeroMexico hat. Free marketing this week for the airline exec, who is as genuine and kind as his boss.
Ochoa played Thursday with good friend Ai Miyazato and Pat Hurst who, like Lorena, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption. One could go up and down the range here in Mexico and listen to one player after another express how much this tour misses Ochoa.
“I think she’s been missed by players, by sponsors even, and particularly by fans,” said Katherine Hull. “She was so down-to-earth.”
Ochoa plans to play in her invitational each year, but won’t sign up for any other events in the next three years. Her best finish in Guadalajara is T-6.
“I’m enjoying the crowds and with so many emotions sometimes it’s difficult to get the job done,” Ochoa said. “But my goal is to be happy and satisfied and what’s done is done.”