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Jones becomes first American winner in 01

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Austin, TX - Rosie Jones sank a four-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to defeat Korea's Mi Hyun Kim and win the Kathy Ireland Championship on Sunday. Jones captured the 11th title of her 20-year career and ended a victory drought for the Americans on the LPGA Tour in 2001.
 
Dottie Pepper was the last U.S. player to win an LPGA event when she triumphed at the Arch Wireless Championship last November of 2000. Each of the first 10 events of the 2001 campaign were won by international players, with Sweden's Annika Sorenstam winning four straight tournaments prior to last week's victory by Se Ri Pak of Korea.
 
Jones needed a birdie at the par-five 18th hole to tie Kim, who was already in the clubhouse at 12-under-par 268 after closing with a 66. Jones proceeded to plant her third shot with a sand wedge within a foot of the pin and tapped in for a final-round 67, forcing the playoff.
 
They returned to 18, where Kim's eight-foot birdie attempt broke left before reaching the cup. Jones, who had half the distance and the same line, rolled in her putt for her first win since 1999.
 
'I take a lot of pride in that win,' said Jones, who earned the first-place check for $135,000. 'And I am just happy to have done it and pulled it out.'
 
Jones, tied for the lead with Columbia's Marisa Baena at the start of the day, traded birdies with her playing partner at the first hole but soon fell a shot back when Baena birdied the sixth to get to 11-under. Jones drew even with a 25-foot birdie putt at the seventh, and Baena slipped back to 10-under when she bogeyed No. 9.
 
Meanwhile Kim, trailing by one stroke when she teed off Sunday, bogeyed the fourth hole when she failed to get up and down out of a bunker. Fine iron play helped fuel her mid-round burst, however, as she birdied four of five holes from the seventh, three with putts inside five feet.
 
Jones briefly claimed the lead at the 12th, where she holed an 18-foot birdie putt. But a bogey at 13 dropped her into a tie with Kim at 11-under par.
 
Kim sank a 10-foot birdie putt at the 17th to seize the lead, and Baena moved alongside of Jones with a birdie at 16. Baena, who would fall from contention with a bogey at 17, finished up with a birdie for a 68 and solo third at 11- under 269, her best showing since joining the LPGA Tour in 1999.
 
Then Jones, who could manage only two pars and a bogey at 18 over the first three rounds, fashioned a blind pitch with a sand wedge 40 yards uphill to the last green. The roar of the crowd let her know she was in easy birdie range.
 
'I knew it was close, but I couldnt wait to see how close. I was hoping that it was like that close because I dont have to putt anything,' Jones said as she held her hands a foot apart. 'I was pretty nervous.'
 
After Jones knotted things up in regulation, she won with a second straight birdie on the hole that vexed her all week.
 
The 41-year-old Jones admitted she won't miss having to field questions about the Americans' failure to win this year.
 
'There has been a lot of hype, the media has been taking about it a lot,' she said. 'And we as players, as American players, take a lot of heat for it. Let's get beyond that. There are a lot of great Americans that have been playing good golf, and they are going to be playing great golf the rest of the year.'
 
For Kim, a three-time LPGA winner, it was her second playoff loss in the last three events. She also fell to Sorenstam at the The Office Depot tournament in Los Angeles two weeks ago.
 
Jones improved her playoff record to 5-4, while Kim dropped to 1-3 in extra holes.
 
Pepper shot 67 to finish alone in fourth place at eight-under, three shots ahead of Canada's Lorie Kane, who closed with a two-over 72 at the par-70 Onion Creek Club.
 
2000 Rookie of the Year Dorothy Delasin tied for sixth place with Scotland's Catriona Matthew and Mhairi McKay, and French rookie Patricia Meunier-Lebouc. The group finished at three-under 277.
 

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