Originally created 06/07/01

Meg Mallon hopes Rochester sparks a resurgence



ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The summer of 2000 was magic for Meg Mallon, a reminder of the success she savored a decade before.

Now, Mallon is trying to rekindle that feeling again as she prepares to defend her championship in the Rochester International, which begins Thursday.

"I'm not playing as well as I was last year and that's frustrating, but I also have to remember that what I did last year was pretty extra special," Mallon said. "I had such a great year, my expectations were so high. You have to bring them back down and build yourself up again.

"Everything kind of goes in little mini-cycles with me, so hopefully I can get back on an upswing and start winning again."

Mallon followed up her victory here last June by capturing her third career major at the du Maurier Classic. She also tied for second at the U.S. Women's Open and took third at The Nabisco Championship, two of the other three majors on the LPGA Tour.

That helped her become only the fourth player in tour history to earn more than $1 million in a season. And it revived memories of 1991, when she won four times, including two majors.

With 13 tournament wins in a decade, "I've actually had a really nice steady career," she said, but 2000 was as "close to a blockbuster year" as 1991.

This year, however, after picking up two top-10 finishes in January, Mallon followed up a six-week break with a string of below-par performances capped by a tie for 30th in last weekend's U.S. Open, won by Karrie Webb.

Her chances of a repeat victory here had been boosted by Webb's decision to take a week's break, and they swelled when Annika Sorenstam and Se Ri Pak - first and third on the money list - withdrew this week from the $1 million tournament sponsored by Wegmans, a grocery store chain.

"Obviously those are the three hottest players right now," Mallon said. "Yeah, obviously that opens some doors for a lot of people."

In fact, it leaves just one top-10 money player in the field - Dottie Pepper - and only two of this year's tournament winners - Rosie Jones and Wendy Doolan of Australia. Jones and Juli Inkster are the only Americans to pick up wins in 2001.

Despite the influx of foreign-born talent, Mallon doesn't think it's any harder to win than when she turned pro in 1987.

"When I came out, there was an incredible group of six or seven players - Nancy Lopez, Beth Daniel, Betsy King, Patty Sheehan, Pat Bradley - who have all won 30-plus events in their career," she said.

"It was just as hard to win then, I'd say, as it is now when we don't have one player besides that group that's won 30 times. Annika's getting close and Karrie's getting close but they still haven't won 30 times."

Nonetheless, "Annika and Karrie have set themselves apart right now. ... That's just like what Tiger (Woods) did in the men's tour. As a professional golfer I love it. When you see someone close to perfection it's really fun to watch.

"It's like Michael Jordan when he retired - I was the saddest person on the planet because you hate to see one of the best players in the world not play anymore. That's what you have to realize when you're watching Tiger. Enjoy it now and you're going to get to say to your great-grandchildren, 'I got to see Tiger Woods play."'