She stays on course

Times Staff Writer

Lorena OCHOA -- the No. 1 ranked woman golfer in the world -- is carving a place in sports history. In 2007, she captured eight Ladies Professional Golf Assn. titles, including the Women's British Open at the storied Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, and was named Associated Press' female athlete of the year. The 26-year-old is the first LPGA player to win three consecutive events since Annika Sorenstam in 2005, and the first LPGA player to earn more than $4 million in a season. She spoke with us from her home in Guadalajara.

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How do you feel going into this year?

I feel good. I'm already in good shape, and I have been working hard and seeing some good changes. I'm also changing my golf swing. I need to be stronger to be able to have a better position at the top of the back swing. So I'm doing a little more weights this year. I've been working out with the medicine ball -- around 3, 4, 5 kilograms -- working on the entire body. I'm also focusing on my arms and wrist, doing a lot of golf swings and repetitions. It really helps you to be stronger and have a better position at the top.

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What sorts of exercise do you like to do?

I do running. That's my favorite thing. I run a lot -- between 30 to 40 minutes every day, at least five times a week. That's a good number. And I have a routine. I do a few exercises from yoga, and stretches, different stretches for golf. I lift weights in the off season, in December, January, February. When I'm traveling, I don't lift weights -- that's too hard to do when you're traveling.

But I love to run. To me, that's key. Having the conditioning and strong legs is very important for golf.

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Is it possible to be a world class golfer and not exercise?

Impossible. Times have changed a lot and you have to be an athlete to play well. Anybody can have a good week, a lucky week, and play well for one or two weeks. But if you're talking about 25 tournaments a year, and you want to be consistent, and you want to perform well -- especially at the end of the year when you are so drained and tired from all the pressure and all the traveling -- if you are not in good shape, it's impossible to compete at the first level.

That's really the difference in my game in 2005, 2006. I was in a lot better shape from my previous years, and I was able to finish strong.

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Do you have any fitness heroes?

When I was growing up, it was my brother Alejandro. He is a mountain climber. He always motivated me to go with him on the trails on the mountain, hiking and climbing. He did triathlons and marathons, growing up -- he was like my hero. He's now married, so he's finished with the dangers of mountain climbing, but he's still very active. He likes adventures like kayaking and scuba diving. When he travels he likes to hike. Sometimes when we go on vacation to the beach, we exercise together.

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Have you ever had a special moment or revelation while you were out there on the course?

I have it every morning. We start practicing at 7 in the morning, and by 7:15, when the sun starts coming up and you see the light, it's beautiful. The best time to be on the golf course is early in the morning and late in the afternoon. I feel at peace, and I get so excited and motivated to start playing.

It's always a good feeling. I say thank you to God every day, in the morning.

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janet.cromley@latimes.com

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