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Mozo Regains Her Mojo On Greens

By Stuart Hall

Eugene, Ore. – The middle of the U.S. Women’s Amateur generally is not the best time to tinker with a putting stroke. But Belen Mozo figured she needed to do something.

“I just didn’t feel comfortable or confident with my putting earlier in the week,” said Mozo said after advancing to Friday’s quarterfinals with a 6-and-5 victory over Canada’s Stephanie Sherlock. “And then when that happens I seem to get all tense and nervous with the rest of my game.”

So as she prepared for Thursday’s second-round match against Lindy Duncan, Mozo suddenly made a change on Eugene Country Club’s practice green. Essentially, Mozo discarded some unnecessary parts of her pre-putt routine.

“I told myself ‘Just putt it,' ” said the 19-year-old from Cadiz, Spain. “Before, I was lining it up with one hand, everything had to be perfect and I was aiming it. But I just decided to step up, square the clubhead, look at the hole and hit it. This game is really easy if you keep it simple.”

One practice putt after another began dropping.

Belen Mozo, 19, of Spain, chips out of a greenside bunker on the eighth hole. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)

“It was like I had magic in my hands,” she said.

Feeling nearly invincible with her putter, Mozo dispatched Duncan 3 and 2, and then rode that momentum in the afternoon, shooting the equivalent of two under par (with concessions) over 13 holes to eliminate Sherlock.

Mozo advances to meet 20-year-old Whitney Neuhauser of Barboursville, Va., for a spot in the final four.

Against Sherlock, Mozo won the 375-yard, par-4 first hole with a par and never trailed thereafter. A birdie at the 390-yard, par-4 fourth hole gave Mozo a 2-up lead that Sherlock never could trim.

Still 2 up at the turn, Mozo won the next four holes to seal the victory. The four-hole blitz was not so much a matter of what Mozo was doing as it was what Sherlock wasn’t doing – hitting crisp shots that led to four consecutive bogeys.

“I just didn’t play particularly well,” said Sherlock, the runner-up at last week’s Canadian Women’s Amateur. “I just hit some stupid shots here on the back nine. Maybe I was trying to force things and it just got out of control.”

Mozo, a junior at reigning NCAA Division I national champion University of Southern California, said her coach, Andrea Gaston, told her before Monday's first round of match-play qualifying that if she could just get consistent with her putting good things would follow.

“I was like, ‘I know coach, give me some time,’ ” said Mozo, who tied for fourth individually at the NCAAs in May.

Since then, Mozo admits that her confidence has waned and she did not feel particularly solid about her prospects this week, especially on a course that she admits doesn’t suit her eye.

Helping pick up her spirits, though, have been her Spanish Golf Federation teammates Carlota Ciganda and Azahara Munoz, both of whom advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals.

“They are some of my best friends and we’re having a really good time,” said Mozo.

But by Thursday afternoon, Mozo no longer needed any pep talks.

“This morning I played really good and made these putts that I really needed to make,” she said. “So I got all this confidence building up. I called my mom before [the afternoon match] and said, ‘I got it, Mom, I got.’ I had that magic in my hands. I felt really confident with my putting and that makes me hit it better with my shots. It gives you the confidence that even if you miss, you can get it up and down.”

With the newfound confidence, what does the rest of the championship hold for Mozo?

“Trust me, I have not even thought about that,” she said. “I am taking it every shot at a time, every hole at a time. When I get ahead of myself, that’s when bad things start to happen.”

But at least Mozo has the magic working for her.

Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship Web sites.



Championship Facts

U.S. Women's Amateur

HISTORY: The U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of the United States Golf Association’s original three championships. It was first conducted in 1895, shortly after the inaugural U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open. The Women’s Amateur has since been conducted every year except 1917-18, when it was temporarily suspended because of World War I, and 1942-45, when it was suspended because of World War II.

PAR & YARDAGE: Yardage for the Eugene Country Club will be set at 6,484 (stroke play) / 6,516 (match play) yards, par 72.

ARCHITECT: Opened in 1926, the course was designed by H. Chandler Egan. In 1967, Robert Trent Jones Sr. reversed the routing of the original Egan design (i.e., No. 18 tee essentially became the first tee, etc.).

Fairways – Cut to ˝ inch
Tees and collars of greens – Cut to 3/8 inch
Putting greens – Prepared to be firm and fast to measure approximately 11 to 11 1/2 feet on the USGA Stimpmeter
Intermediate rough – Cut to 1 ˝ inches, approximately 6 feet wide along fairways
Primary rough – Cut to 2 ˝ to 3 inches
Player courtesy walks – Cut to 1 ˝ inches, approximately 6 feet wide
The championship setup results in a USGA Course Rating™ of 78.1 and a Slope Rating® of 144

FORMAT: The Women’s Amateur is conducted with 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying. The low 64 scorers then advance to match play, with the champion determined by a 36-hole match-play final.

WHO CAN ENTER: The championship is open to female amateurs who have USGA handicap indexes not exceeding 5.4.

ENTRIES: Entries for the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur closed on June 18. There were 960 entries received for the 2008 championship, just shy of the record 969 entries received for the 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur.



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