Ochoa romps to seventh title of season

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PALM DESERT, California, Oct 15 (Reuters) Mexico's Lorena Ochoa underlined her status as the game's leading player by cruising to a four-shot victory at the World Championship, her seventh LPGA title of the year.

Playing immaculate golf from tee to green, the 26-year-old from Guadalajara fired a six-under-par 66 -- the lowest score of the day -- to finish on 18-under 270 at Bighorn Golf Club yesterday.

Tied for the overnight lead with Norway's Suzann Pettersen, Ochoa broke clear with two birdies in the first three holes and picked up four more shots after the turn.

South Korea's Kim Mi-hyun birdied the last two holes to secure second place with a 69 and the big-hitting Pettersen had to settle for fifth spot at 12 under after closing with a 72.

LPGA rookie of the year Angela Park of South Korea and compatriot Jang Jeong closed with matching 70s to tie for third at 13 under.

Ochoa was delighted to retain her title and the LPGA player of the year award.

''I have been trying to get my seventh victory of this year but it has been tough the last two weeks, especially last week after losing in a playoff,'' the smiling Mexican told reporters after receiving the winner's cheque for 250,000 dollars.

''This week has been great and I am very proud and happy with this trophy.'' Ochoa, who has triumphed four times in her last seven LPGA starts, relishes her position at the pinnacle of the women's game.

''Everything is coming together,'' she said after clinching her 13th LPGA victory in two seasons. ''After what happened in 2006, I thought it would be hard to improve.'' Bidding for her 16th LPGA title, Ochoa hit every green in regulation on the front nine to reach the turn in three-under 33.

She set up further birdies at the 10th and 14th after hitting approach shots to six feet before rolling in a 15-footer at the 15th to surge four clear.

American teenager Michelle Wie ended a frustrating week on a bright note, a six-birdie 71 lifting her a notch off the bottom of the leaderboard in the elite field of 20.

The Stanford University student, playing on a sponsor's invite, finished in 19th spot at 18-over 306.

''I'm very disappointed with this week but maybe I came in with too high hopes because I haven't played for a long time,'' said Wie after a dismal 2007 campaign hampered by a wrist injury and highlighted by just two LPGA cuts in seven starts.

REUTERS TB AS0943

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