They All Bow Down to Praise Plucky Meg


That wise old sage Annika Sorenstam summed up the talented youngsters at the U.S. Womens Open in one tidy phrase. These amateurs are here to learn and see what it's all about, she said. And one of these days they will be Meg.
Meg is Meg Mallon, of course ' the champion of the Womens Open. Meg is 41 years old. She doesnt win nearly as often as Annika Sorenstam, doesnt usually win as spectacularly as Se Ri Pak or Karrie Webb. But shes a plugger, a real grinder, and when she wins one, its usually a biggie.
Mallon has 16 victories over-all. But she has now won the Open twice, the LPGA Championship once, and before its demise, the du Maurier. Thats four majors, or a one-in-four ratio.
The Womens Open has had a rather wacky series of winners the last couple of decades. In 1985 Kathy Baker Guadignano won it for her first career victory ' one of only two in her career. In 87 a young English woman, Laura Davies, won for the first time in America, and in 88 a Swede, Liselotte Neumann, won for the first time in the U.S. Even Sorenstam was a first-time winner when she prevailed in the 95 Open. She since has gone on to win 51 more times, of course.
Remember when Lauri Merten won in 93? That was one of only three career victories. Alison Nicholas out-dueling Nanny Lopez in 97? One of only four career wins. And Hilary Lunke last year ' that was one of the most improbable Open wins. It is the only top-10 finish of her three-year career.
Then again, the last two decades have provided six two-time winners. Betsy King won it in 89, then came right back for another victory in 90. Patty Sheehan won twice, Sorenstam twice, Juli Inkster twice and Karrie Webb won back-to-back.
Always, though, there was Mallon. She won the Open in 1991 at Colonial, then had a couple of runners-up - in 95 to Sorenstam and to Webb in 2000. But finally, Mallon has joined the others with her second Open success.
When you have history, you just know all the things can go wrong, said Mallon. I've had two second place finishes in the U.S. Opens, and to me they were disasters.
I kick-started Annika's career in '95 - she was five shots behind me and came back and won her first win. In 2000 I made - had four 3-putts on the back side to lose to Karrie Webb. So there's a lot of history back there, a lot of things you have to fight off. ... It's, by far, all a mental challenge, more so than anything else.
If its a mental challenge, of course, Mallon has an advantage going in. Shes loosey-goosey, an easy-going lady that is not going to feel an overwhelming amount of pressure, regardless of the event. And, it doesnt hurt that the Womens Open is her favorite tournament each year.
I like the difficult conditions and I like how you have to work the ball around the golf course and use your short game and use all facets of your game, said Mallon. That's why the U.S. Open is my favorite event.
Sunday she shot 65, one of the great come-from-behind rounds of all-time. Some say its the greatest round ever in Womens Open competition. One thing is certain ' its the greatest round of Mallons long career.
This is, agreed Mallon Sunday. You know, I said the Open I won in '91 - I shot 67 the last day to come from behind, and felt like that was a pretty darn good round, too. Today I just - I mean it was the same thing, I don't think I made a bogey in that round, either. And today I didn't, and it was incredible. Everything went right.
One thing is for certain ' it had to be one of the most popular wins ever in Open history. Mallon is very popular with her fellow competitors, and even while Mallon was beating them, there was open-mouthed appreciation for what she was doing. Listen to what her opponents said after she won:
SORENSTAM: Meg just played extraordinary today. To shoot 6-under on Sunday at the U.S. Open, that's as good as it gets, really She's as steady as it gets. I think this golf course really fit her and she did a good job I don't know how many of you thought there would be a 65 in the last few groups, but Meg proved us all wrong today.
JENNIFER ROSALES: She played unbelievable golf today. She deserves to win she just made everything that she looked at. I couldn't believe it, she just made everything that she looked at. You know, you just have those days I always love playing with her, she's an awesome playing partner - her swing, her rhythm, everything.
KELLY ROBBINS: Fabulous. What great golf. Meg is such a good player when she's good. So solid, straight, and hits a lot of greens. She can putt with the best of them when she's putting well. Very impressive today.
MICHELLE WIE: It's awesome. What did I say yesterday - if someone shoots 65 and wins, I'm happy with that. But it's awesome.
And Sorenstam the Sage? Again, a summation that says it all. Mallon is in her 40s, but that doesnt matter at all, said Annika.
It shows that age doesn't really matter. But it does show that you need experience, and especially in a championship like this. Meg is the perfect major winner.
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