Sunday, November 18, 2007

natalie gulbis

On the verge of a collapse, Ochoa pulls through at ADT Championship

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Lorena Ochoa could only see the top half of her golf ball that was buried in Bermuda rough. Even more daunting was the water that separated the 161 yards between her and the 18th hole.

No less than US$1 million was riding on this shot Sunday at the ADT Championship.

"It came out perfect," she said.

On the verge of an unseemly collapse, Ochoa wrapped up a sensational season with what she called the best shot of her career. Clinging to a one-shot lead over Natalie Gulbis, who was already on the green 15 feet away for birdie, Ochoa hit six-iron that rolled 30 inches from the cup for one final birdie.

It gave her a 4-under 68 for a two-shot victory in the ADT Championship and the $1-million prize, the richest in women's golf.

"I had a horrible lie," Ochoa said. "Because of the conditions, and because I was only one shot leading the tournament, I think it was my best shot so far in my career."

Even more stunning was how she got into this predicament.

Despite being the No. 1 player in women's golf, Ochoa has a short history of blowing tournaments, and this would have been a doozy. After blowing away the seven other players who qualified for this 18-hole shootout, she had a four-shot lead with two holes to play.

But she butchered the par-3 17th with an eight-iron over the back of the green, a putt that got hung up in the fluffy rough, and three more putts from 20 feet for a double bogey. Gulbis made a seven-foot birdie putt, narrowing the lead to one shot with one hole to play.

It was about the only drama of the balmy afternoon, certainly more than Ochoa needed.

"It was fun for the fans and for all of you," she said, "but it didn't feel very good."

Ochoa hammered a tee shot over the corner of the lake and the bunker, but it wasn't enough to hop out of the rough, and the ball sank to the bottom of the grass. Gulbis hit first, a hybrid three-iron that covered the flag and put even more pressure on Ochoa.

"Lorena was spending a lot of time looking at her lie, so I was assuming that the lie was not very good," Gulbis said. "She's the best player in the world, so I thought that at least we'd get kind of an eye-for-an-eye putt at it."

That thought didn't last long.

Gulbis made Ochoa's 30-inch putt look even shorter when her birdie attempt stopped well short of the hole. Even so, Gulbis again showed she's more than just a glamour girl, giving everything she had in what looked like a hopeless situation. She shot 70, the only other player to break par on a difficult day.

Gulbis, who was paired with Julieta Granada when she won last year, earned $100,000 as the runner-up.

Ochoa finished the year with $4,364,994, having already shattered the record set by Annika Sorenstam five years ago ($2,863,904). Despite a harrowing finish she could have done without, and a quirky format that reset the scores after the second and third rounds, there was no disputing the new queen on the LPGA Tour.

Queen translates to "la reina" in Spanish, pronounced very similar to Lorena.

"It was unbelievable the year she had," Gulbis said.

Ochoa won for the eighth time this year, joining Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez as the only players to have done that in the last 30 years.

The money was meaningful for other reasons. Ochoa said she would give $100,000 to a relief fund for flood victims in Tabasco, Mexico, and a good chunk to her foundation to buy land for an elementary and high school it is building for underprivileged children.

"I always want to give back," she said. "And this is a good day."

She almost gave back too much on the golf course until a shot reminiscent Se Ri Pak winning a playoff last year at the LPGA Championship with a hybrid to two inches, and Shaun Micheel winning the 2003 PGA Championship with a seven-iron to the same distance.

Paula Creamer was the only other player under par much of the balmy day until hitting her tee shot into the water on the 18th and escaping with a bogey to finish with a 72. She earned $20,500 for finishing third.

Everyone else cleared the stage much earlier, certainly after taking on the diabolical seventh hole, par 3 to a peninsula green. The first five players found the water, with Karrie Webb going in twice for a quadruple bogey. Webb shot 84, the highest score of her LPGA career.

It was a nerve-racking Sunday, with what looked like $1 million cash stuffed into a glass case on the first tee and a Trump International course that played as tough as it had all week.

Ochoa made it look easy, and for most of the final round, it looked like a runaway.

She made five birdies on her way to a 31, impressive considering the rest of the field averaged 38.7 on the front nine. Heading to the 10th tee, Ochoa had a five-shot lead and showed no signs of folding.

The first hint of any drama came on the 16th, when Ochoa hit into a bunker and faced 131 yards over the water to the green. Gulbis already was 15 feet from the flag, and Ochoa hit 7-iron to about a foot inside her. Both made par.

"It's never easy," her caddie, Dave Brooker, said after raking the bunker.

One hole later, Ochoa proved him correct. She had joking told Brooker earlier that the plan was to have a three-or four-shot lead going to the 17th hole "in case something happens."

"And that's exactly what happened," Ochoa said with a laugh. "So I'm happy I did that."

Even more thrilling was how she recovered. Given her lie in the rough, the six-iron could have gone anywhere. But it was right where she aimed, a career shot that paid off in a million ways.
Natalie Gulbis
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Natalie Gulbis
Personal Information
Birth January 7, 1983 (1983-01-07) (age 24)
Sacramento, California
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Nationality United States
Residence Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
College University of Arizona (1 year)
Turned Pro 2001
Current tour LPGA Tour (joined 2002)
Professional wins 2 (LPGA Tour: 1, Other: 1)
Best results in major championships
Kraft Nabisco T3: 2006
LPGA Championship T5: 2005
U.S. Women's Open T4: 2005
Women's British Open T8: 2005
Natalie Anne Gulbis (born January 7, 1983) is an American professional golfer who plays on the U.S. based LPGA Tour.

1 Golf career
2 Personal life, business and media
3 Professional wins (1)
3.1 LPGA Tour (1)
3.2 Other wins (1)
4 Results in LPGA majors
5 External links

[edit] Golf career
She started finding interest in the game at the early age of 4. By the time she was 7 years old she had won her first tournament. In three years when she was only 10 years old, she started breaking par. She is of Latvian descent and was born in Sacramento, California, and played in her first LPGA tour event as an amateur at the age of 14. She attended Granite Bay High School and graduated when she was 16. She turned professional at age 18 after playing for one season on the women's golf team at the University of Arizona.

She did not win a tournament in the first five years of her professional career but still finished sixth on the LPGA money list in 2005 with over $1 million (U.S.) in earnings and played on the winning United States Solheim Cup team. She placed in the top-10 in four consecutive major championships from the 2005 LPGA Championship to the 2006 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Her first professional win came in 2007 at the Evian Masters where she defeated Jeong Jang in a playoff to claim the winner's share of the $3,000,000 purse.

[edit] Personal life, business and media
Gulbis is considered to be a sex symbol in the LPGA. When she released a calendar for 2005 just before the 2004 U.S. Women's Open, which featured her in different pictures showing her playing golf, in addition to striking poses in swimwear, the United States Golf Association (USGA) barred it from being sold at the event, deeming it inappropriate. The calendar was sold very openly at Golf Canada. The USGA was criticized for overreacting. Gulbis also posed for the November 2004 issue of the magazine FHM, an issue that also gave away a chance to play golf with her at her home course, the Lake Las Vegas Resort, where her calendar photo shoot took place. Gulbis has said that she likes the attention she gets, even if it is for her appearance; she has endorsement deals with TaylorMade Golf, Adidas, Canon, Amstel Light, Payment Data Systems, MasterCard, Winn Golf Grips and Lake Las Vegas Resort.

In 2006, Gulbis began writing a monthly golf advice column in FHM. In November 2005, a reality television show, The Natalie Gulbis Show, made its debut on The Golf Channel. The show had its second season premiere on October 18, 2006. Gulbis has also appeared on the 2007 version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour by EA Sports along with fellow professionals Annika Sörenstam, Ian Poulter and Luke Donald, among others. Ironically, in August 2007 Gulbis appeared on the August/September cover of Sactown Magazine in an article that profiled the risings star's busy life of product endorsements and photo shoots, though frustratingly enough, no pro win. Gil Ozir, Vice President of Marketing for Raymond Weil (a luxury watchmaker and one of Gulbis' many endorsement deals) was quoted as saying, "Once she starts winning, she's going to be a megastar." Mere days later, Gulbis won the Evian Masters, her first professional LPGA title.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home