Ochoa exit sad but no one bigger than LPGA Tour, says Kerr

By Peter Rutherford

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Lorena Ochoa's retirement was a big blow for women's golf but no player is bigger than the LPGA Tour, former US Open winner Cristie Kerr said on Thursday.

Mexican Ochoa, the dominant figure in women's golf for the past three years with two majors and 27 LPGA Tour wins, retired earlier this month at the age of 28 citing a lack of motivation and her desire to spend more time with her family.

American Kerr, ranked fifth in the world, said there was no shortage of great players ready to battle for the coveted world number one spot.

"We're all very sad that Lorena isn't playing anymore but I am sure she has her reasons for retiring," Kerr said in a conference call. "The level of competition in the LPGA is as competitive as ever and we still have so many great players.

"It's not just one player that makes the Tour -- she was just one part of it."

South Korea's Shin Ji-yai has taken over at the top of the world rankings but Kerr has no plans to settle for second best.

"I would love to be the world's number one. There are still a lot of great players on the Tour and you can't take anyone for granted," added Kerr, who has confirmed her participation in the LPGA event in Malaysia later this year.

"I am going to have to perform well and win multiple tournaments, possibly a major this year to be in contention."

The 32-year-old said she had no plans to follow the likes of Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam into early retirement.

"I have thought about my future. I love golf. I have always played because I love it, not for the money.

"I look up to Juli Inkster who is still out here competing," she said of the 49-year-old American.

"I see myself playing golf for another 10-15 years if I am still healthy."

(Editing by Ian Ransom)