CLIFTON, N.J. – Former Arizona Wildcat Lorena Ochoa is going to have to stage one of the biggest comebacks of her career to win a fourth straight 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 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. (Friday), 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.”
SAN ANTONIO – Three-time champion Justin Leonard and Paul Goydos shot 7-under 63s to share the first-round lead in the PGA Texas Open.
The 44-year-old Goydos, who publicly opened up this month about the death of his ex-wife in January and raising his two teenage daughters, had the lead for most of the day until Leonard birdied three of his last four holes in the afternoon.
BALTRAY, Ireland – Italy’s Francesco Molinari shot a 9-under 63 to take a one-stroke leader over Sweden’s Johan Edfors in the Irish Open.