Defending Champ Loves Low Profile

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2005 U.S. WomenCHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. -- Annika Sorenstam is trying to win the Grand Slam, Michelle Wie is long off the tee and on potential. Natalie Gulbis gets attention for her looks and Jill McGill is the hometown favorite.
 
Meg Mallon? The defending champion has spent the week at Cherry Hills Country Club in relative obscurity.
 
Oh sure, she got a nice ovation on the first tee before her practice round Wednesday, but the rest of the morning was spent playing in front about 50 fans while huge galleries followed Wie in the group ahead and Sorenstam across the course.
 
Not that it mattered to Mallon.
 
Unlike Retief Goosen, who said he felt underappreciated as defending champion heading into last week's U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Mallon has enjoyed staying just out of the spotlight's reach.
 
``I don't mind being out of radar,'' she said. ``I am not someone who needs to be in the forefront of things.''
 
It's certainly worked in the past.
 
Mallon didn't play particularly well heading into last year's U.S. Women's Open at Orchards Golf Club in Massachusetts and opened the tournament with a 2-over-par 73. She jumped into contention with a 67 on Saturday, but most of the attention was still on Sorenstam and leader Jennifer Rosales.
 
But after being a bystander to so many moments in history -- Sorenstam's 59, Karrie Webb entering the Hall of Fame, Julie Inkster's career Grand Slam -- Mallon put together the greatest final round in the 60-year history of the U.S. Women's Open.
 
Trailing Rosales by three shots at the start, Mallon shot a 65 and held off Sorenstam by two strokes to win her second Open 13 years after her first -- the longest gap in history.
 
``I love the way I did it last year,'' Mallon said. ``I didn't have to do this (media interviews) until Sunday afternoon. It was a nice way to approach it.''
 
It won't be easy to do it again the way Sorenstam is playing.
 
The Super Swede has won six times in eight starts this year on the LPGA Tour and is halfway to becoming the first player -- male or female -- to win the Grand Slam.
 
She has won the Kraft Nabisco and LPGA championships. The final major is the Women's British Open next month.
 
Her scoring average is an awesome 68.60, she's already earned $1.5 million and she's a step away from becoming the first player to win the first three majors since Ben Hogan in 1953.
 
No wonder Mallon hasn't received much attention.
 
``It's nice to be remembered that you won last year, of course, but obviously with the way Annika's been playing people should be focusing on her,'' Webb said.
 
For Mallon to have a chance, she'll have to straighten out the crooked drives that have plagued her all season.
 
Mallon calls her driver the straightest club in her bag. But she's tied for 79th in driving accuracy this year, hitting just 70 percent of the fairways, and her scoring average has climbed to 72.87 per round -- 44th on the tour.
 
One advantage of hitting it crooked is that Mallon's short game has gotten better. But she knows hitting the ball straight is a must at Cherry Hills, where the fairways are tight and the rough is up to four inches deep.
 
Mallon found a driver she likes on the range Wednesday morning, but it was the 14th one she's tried in the past 10 weeks. If this one doesn't work out, Mallon might just go back to the smaller-headed drivers she used at the beginning of her tour career in 1987.
 
``There's almost too many choices out there,'' she said. ``Technology has screwed up my accuracy for some reason because I used to hit it a lot straighter before these big giant drivers came along.''
 
Related Links:
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