Sara Lee Classic
Sara Lee Classic
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Mallon takes title with final hole birdie

Meg Mallon has made a habit out of winning the Sara Lee Classic. Now she'll have to find out what a hard habit that is to break.

Her nine-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole gave Mallon a one-stroke victory over Annika Sorenstam and Kris Tschetter in the final Sara Lee today. It was her third championship in the 12-year history of the event.

"If I knew what it was, I'd take it with me every week," said Mallon, who also won the 1993 and 1996 Sara Lee -- the only player to ever win the tourney more than once

Mallon shot a 4-under-par 68, and had a tournament-record final score of 17-under-par 199 to earn the $112,500 winner's check. Sara Lee Corp. has withdrawn as the title sponsor, and there is no guarantee the LPGA Tour will return to Nashville.

"This is obviously a bittersweet moment for our tour," she said. "The emotions just came out. As soon as the last putt fell, the whole thing just hit me."

It was Mallon's second victory of the year, her third straight top-3 finish, and the first win by an American-born player in four weeks. With birdies on the last two holes, she took the tournament lead for the first time on the 54th and final hole.

"I didn't find my golf swing until the last five holes today, but it was a good time to find it," Mallon said. "It all started to feel comfortable hitting the shots."

Sorenstam three-putted for a bogey on the 17th hole to lose the top spot she had taken from second-round leader Michelle McGann earlier Sunday.

"It wasn't a misread, it was a bad putt," said Sorenstam, who shot 71 two days after carding a record 61.

Sorenstam then missed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th that would have forced the Sara Lee's third consecutive playoff. McGann finished fourth after shooting 73.

"It just wasn't there today," Sorenstam said of her putting. "I have a lot to work on the next two weeks (before the U.S. Women's Open). I need to learn to get used to it and trust it. Hopefully, they'll roll in."

Tschetter still led Mallon by a stroke as they both started the 18th, but Tschetter's drive bounced off a cart path and she ended up with a bogey. It was her third of the back nine at the 6,290-yard Hermitage Golf Course. Over the same stretch, Mallon made four birdies and no bogeys.

"Meg is just so consistent," Tschetter said. "She hits the center of the fairways."

LPGA money leader Karrie Webb recovered from a terrible opening round to post a 13-under-par 203. Webb has finished in the top 10 of all 11 tournaments she has entered this year.

"I'll take it," Webb said. "I just wanted to have a good round today. I really did that."

The scores were slightly higher than the record-setting numbers of the first two days. The weather was warm with some wind, and the pin placements on the back nine were much more difficult than on either Friday or Saturday.

Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, the 1991 champion who said the Sara Lee was her favorite tour stop, fought back the tears after her round.

"It's very hard," she said. "I just want to thank Nashville for all they've done to support the LPGA Tour."

 

AP


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