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Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Mexican Tale of Two Tigers

by Hal “Paco” Clark

Golf experts and fans from all over the world are drawing comparisons between the two best players on tour today, Tiger Woods of the PGA and Lorena Ochoa, the top LPGA tour player. In her own words, Lorena Ochoa said that she and Tiger Woods ‘live in two different worlds’. Interms of golf, though, there is hardly anything that separates the two.Looking athe way Ochoa is dominating women’s golf, one cannot help but draw comparisons between her and Woods.

Both players took extended time off at the end of last season and both opted out of the season’s first few events. Both won their first tournaments of the year. As the #1 mens player in the world, Woods won the Dubai Desert Classic and his next event, the Accenture World Match Play Championship in decisive fashion, 8 & 7. If you add his two wins at the end of last season ,and the Target World Challenge, his winning streak stands at six.

The 26-year-old Mexican, Ochoa is the #1 ranked female player in the world and won her 2008 debut at the HSBC Women’s Championship, an 11 stroke victory over former #1 Annika Sorenstam. Ochoa started her 2008 LPGA season the way she ended the previous season,on a winning note, by winning the ADT Championship. She said: “It’s always great to be compared with Tiger. We all want to be like him. I admire and respect him a lot. We live in two different worlds, but when he won a tournament by 10 strokes, I had that in my mind. It’s something that always motivates me. It’s an honor to be compared with him, and I’m going to try to go after him. Every tournament I play, I play to win. When I go to Nabisco for the first Major of the year in April, I’m going to be ready to win.”

It could be a long while before Ochoa matches Woods’ achievements, but she is getting there. Both players won one Major each, but Ochoa’s eight victories put her one up on Woods. Ochoa finished in the top-five an amazing 17 times, while Woods had 10 top-five finishes. Both led their Tours in scoring average - Woods 69.10 and Ochoa 69.69. The greatest disparity between the two lies in the prize money, but that’s a topic for another day. It is no surprise that both led their Tours in greens in regulation last year - Woods 71 per cent and Ochoa 73.1 per cent. When it comes to putting, Ochoa was ranked first on the LPGA with 1.76 putts per hole while Woods was fourth (1.73).

But it is the manner in which they annihiliate the field that has Ochoa mentioned in the same breath as Woods. Both have a desire to use their celebrity status to help the children of the world. Is Ochoa on her way to becoming the Tiger Woods of women’s golf? I like her chances.