Originally created 11/24/03

A Mallon moment in the Year of Annika



WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Meg Mallon turned herself into more than just a footnote in this, the Year of Annika.

Mallon outplayed Annika Sorenstam over the final nine holes Sunday and took advantage of a rare hiccup by the world's best female player to beat her by one stroke in the season-ending ADT Championship.

That Mallon, a three-time major winner with one of the more impressive resumes in the sport, could make five birdies over the back nine and put together a closing round of 5-under-par 67 wasn't a shock.

But overtaking Sorenstam? That's quite an accomplishment, especially the way it went down over the final dramatic hour at the Trump International Golf Course.

"You get a burr in your side" after continually hearing Sorenstam is unbeatable, Mallon said. "But you know there's something you can do about it: Play better."

And so, she did.

Trailing by a stroke going into the par-3 17th waterfall hole, Mallon hit a safe shot over the water to 15 feet, then made the birdie putt and pumped her fist after pulling into a tie at 7 under.

She played the 18th hole safely at par, then hung out at the scorer's tent, did a few interviews and signed a couple autographs while waiting for Sorenstam to finish.

She expected a playoff, but got a surprise when Sorenstam made the most uncharacteristic shot of the tournament, hooking her tee shot on 18 into the deep, gnarly rough.

Sorenstam hacked out, and had to get up and down to save par and force a playoff. But the approach went to only about 12 feet and her aggressive putt slipped past the hole, prompting her to give a frustrated underhanded wave at the ball.

The bogey, her third of the day, ruined Sorenstam's chances for a storybook ending to this wild season, which included a history-making appearance at the PGA Tour's Colonial and her sixth Player of the Year award.

Instead, Mallon earned her first win of the season, the 15th of her career, and a $215,000 check.

"I know a lot of you didn't expect my name to be on this check today," she told fans during the victory ceremony.

The 40-year-old Mallon also breathed some hope into her LPGA Tour compatriots, who watched Sorenstam win the last five events in which she took a lead into the final round and generally dominate the tour - both on the course and in the headlines.

"I'm sure they're saying, 'If Meg can do it, anyone can do it,"' Mallon said.

Of course, it didn't hurt that Mallon caught Sorenstam at the tail end of a grueling season and a grueling week that included a long flight back from Singapore and a bout of pinkeye that forced her to play the first two rounds without her contact lenses.

Besides the bad tee shot on 18, Sorenstam could look at her first putt on the par-5 12th hole, an eagle attempt from 40 feet that she left a good 15 feet from the hole. She simply drew her putter to her face and laughed after that one, en route to a three-putt and a par.

"Some of the shots I hit today were ridiculous," she said. "Some putts I hit today, you just had to laugh."

For a while, it looked as if Cristie Kerr might be Sorenstam's biggest challenger. After falling behind by four early, Kerr drew to within one after the sixth hole. But those hopes were quashed on the 14th hole, when Kerr got distracted and chose to re-mark her ball before a 3-foot putt that she promptly pulled, setting up a bogey that ended her chances.

Kerr shot 71 and finished in third, with a score of 3-under 285. Two strokes behind her was Beth Daniel (72). Se Ri Pak (73) finished at 288 and clinched the Vare Trophy, given to the player with the lowest scoring average among those who play at least 70 rounds.

Those were the only five players in the field of the tour's top 30 money winners to shoot par or better on Donald Trump's undulating, water-filled 6,506-yard layout.