Chick-fil- A Charity Championship
Chick-fil- A Charity Championship
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Hetherington beats Kane in playoff

Rachel Hetherington was ready to play another hole. It wasn't necessary.

Hetherington, who forced a playoff with two birdies on the final three holes of regulation, won the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship when Lorie Kane missed a four-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole today.

"I expected Lorie to make it,'' said Hetherington, who then tapped in a two-foot birdie of her own for the victory. "I was disappointed for her. You don't want anyone to miss a putt like that.''

She wasn't alone.

"It was the worst putt I hit all weekend,'' Kane said. "That was not the time to do it.''

Hetherington, one of five players tied for the lead beginning the final round, made the turn with a two-shot lead but gave it up with a double bogey at No. 10. When the Australian bogeyed 15 to fall two shots back, Kane seemed poised for her first victory on the LPGA Tour.

Instead, she settled for her sixth runner-up finish since 1997.

"My time is coming,'' the Canadian said, tears glistening in her eyes. "I hope it's soon.''

Kane's flop overshadowed a gutsy comeback by Hetherington, starting with a 20-footer for birdie at 16. Kane, playing two groups ahead, opened the door with a poor shot out of the front bunker at 18, a short par-5 that provides one of the best birdie possibilities on the course.

After two-putting for par, Kane retreated to the putting green to see if her 12-under 204 would hold up. It didn't.

Hetherington put her second shot at 18 into the same bunker that bedeviled her opponent. She blasted 15 feet past the cup, then sank the birdie putt to force a playoff on the same hole.

Both players, using 5-woods, failed to hold the green with their second shots, and another playoff hole seemed likely when Hetherington chipped to within 2 feet of the flag and Kane punched her ball just 4 feet away.

But Kane missed the putt and Hetherington tapped in for the victory.

"I probably gave it away,'' Kane moaned.

Hetherington's second triumph was similar to her first. In the Betsy King Classic last year, she birdied the par-5 final hole for force a playoff, then defeated Annika Sorenstam with another birdie on the same hole in sudden-death.

"I guess it helped me when we were going back to the playoff hole,'' Hetherington said. "I told myself, 'This is what happened last time. Maybe it will happen again.' "

As for Kane, she might be the best player on the tour without a victory. It was the second year in a row she finished second at Eagles Landing Country Club south of Atlanta.

Karie Webb, the tour's hottest player, and 1998 player of the year Sorenstam both made late charges but fell one shot shy of making the playoff at 11-under. Jean Bartholomew also finished at 205 after a 68.

Webb, a winner three times this year, closed with a 68 and hasn't finished lower than eighth in her eight tournaments. Sorenstam, who has struggled with her putting, fired a 66 for the best round of the day but not enough for her first victory of '99.

Barb Mucha, who tied an LPGA record Saturday with 11 birdies for a sizzling round of 62, began the day tied for the lead at 10-under with Hetherington and three other players: Mi Hyun Kim, Leslie Spalding and Maria Hjorth.

Mucha could manage only a 72, her frustration summed up at No. 6 when she left a birdie putt less than inch short of the cup, hovering over the edge.

"I guess I used them all up yesterday,'' she joked to the gallery.

Hjorth, atop the leaderboard after each of the first two rounds, slumped to a 74 and wound up four shots back. Kim was one shot better after a 73.

DIVOTS: Se Ri Pak was penalized two strokes for slow play at No. 15. ... The tournament had one of its strongest fields, drawing 44 of the top 50 money-winners. Most players praised the condition of the 6,187-yard course and vowed to return next year. ... All three tours are holding events in the Atlanta area during a six-week period. The golf-a-thon began with the PGA Tour's BellSouth Classic on April 1-4 and culminates with the Nationwide Senior Championship on May 7-9. ... Nancy Lopez prepared for her role as host of the tournament, beginning next year, by presenting the championship trophy to Hetherington. Lopez finished 11 shots back.