Over the last five years, no athlete has surprised me as much as Lorena Ochoa. Her retirement at age 28, announced Tuesday, came as only a mild shock, because she has talked about an early departure from golf in favor of rearing a family.
But five years ago, if someone had predicted that Ochoa would be the No. 1 player in the world and that her exit would be a knockdown punch to the LPGA, I would have dismissed the idea as madness.
At the 2005 U.S. Open outside Denver, she went into the final round five strokes off the lead, but went on a birdie tear and reached the par-4 18th hole just one stroke back. Then she collapsed. She flubbed her tee shot, which sputtered into water, then returned to the tee to start over. This time, she hit into the rough.