Mexican LPGA Star Lorena Ochoa Retires

MEXICO CITY — Lorena Ochoa
retired Tuesday, following the path of Annika Sorenstam and marking the
second time in the last three years the biggest star on the LPGA Tour
left the game.

The 28-year-old Mexican announced
her decision on her website and will discuss her plans Friday. Ochoa,
who has been No. 1 in the world the last three years and won 27 times
over the last six years, may well be the best-known athlete in her
country who is not a soccer player.

"Lorena Ochoa confirms her
retirement from the LPGA, as news reports in some media have said
today," her statement said. "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."

The LPGA told The Associated
Press it would not comment until Friday's news conference.

Ochoa is scheduled to play next
week in the Tres Marias event in Morelia, west of Mexico City. It was
not clear if she would indeed play there or if this month's Kraft
Nabisco Championship in California, where she finished fourth in the
year's first major, was her finale.

"I'm just crushed," Judy Rankin, a
Hall of Famer and television analyst, said upon hearing the news. "We
won't get to see her play golf. Mostly, we won't get to see her."

Sorenstam was 37 when she
announced her retirement in May 2008, saying she wanted to pursue other
interests and start a family. She now has a daughter.

The newspaper Reforma first
reported Ochoa's retirement and said she wanted to concentrate on her
family and charities. She was married in December to Andres Conesa, the
chief executive of Aeromexico airline. He has three children from a
previous marriage.

"I must admit that I was
surprised, but not shocked, when I heard the news yesterday that Lorena
is going to retire," Sorenstam said on her blog. "She has always said
she would play for maybe 10 years and then leave the game to start a
family. She just got married and obviously feels that she is ready for
that next chapter in her life."

Ochoa has also talked openly
about wanting to have children of her own. Last year she began traveling
more, playing less, and had more off-course obligations, which include
her charity foundation.

"Personally, it's more important
the things that I do outside the golf course," Ochoa said last year
before a tournament she hosts in her hometown of Guadalajara. "And
that's been my main focus right now."

Her retirement is a blow to the
LPGA Tour, which has been struggling in a tough economy and has only 25
tournaments on its schedule this year, 14 of them in the United States.

Sorenstam became the face of the
LPGA Tour by winning the career Grand Slam, becoming the only woman to
shoot 59 and playing in the Colonial, the first woman in 58 years to
compete on the PGA Tour.

Ochoa never quite assumed that
star power, playing before moderate crowds even as she was going for a
record-tying fifth straight victory in Tulsa, Okla., two years ago.

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 Tour 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, where she took the traditional jump
into the pond with her family as a mariachi band serenaded her.

She won her fourth consecutive
LPGA Tour player of the year award in 2009, narrowly holding off Jiyai
. Ochoa played four times this year, with her best finish at the
Kraft Nabisco Championship when she finished fourth.

"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."

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