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Davies Walks Away With LA

Laura Davies hit the right shot at the right time, and it made her a winner for the first time in more than a year.

Under a steady rain, Davies chipped in from 40 feet on the 17th hole for birdie and won the $750,000 LPGA Los Angeles Women's Championship by three strokes Sunday with a 1-over 73 for a 5-under 211 total.

Davies joined Karrie Webb as the LPGA's second wire-to-wire winner this season. The Englishwoman shot a 67 on Friday - one day after having laser eye surgery - and a 71 on Saturday in the rain-plagued tournament at the 6,222-yard Wood Ranch Golf Club.

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She credited her improved eye sight for helping her see the undulation in the greens, something she couldn't detect while wearing glasses for 12 years.

"My putting has been great and I really believe it's because I can see the hole now, where before I was just seeing a fuzzy area," she said. "I could focus in on the trophy on the 18th green, which was the main thing. It's the first time I've seen one."

Davies, a former U.S. Open champion who finished second three times last year without winning in 24 tournaments, had never before won an LPGA Tournament with a final round over par. Her victory, worth $112,500, was her first on the LPGA Tour before March.

"This is massive," she said. "Not winning last year, I try and talk it down. It really hurts not to win. I was panicking out there today because every time you let one go, you know it makes it harder and harder to win one, so I got this one in the bank early."

Swede Carin Koch, who had the day's second-best round of 70, Michele Redman and Janice Moodie tied for second at 2-under 216. Redman and Moodie shot 72s.

"I missed a few fairways that I usually wouldn't, but it was tough today out there," Koch said. "I had some tough 8 to 10 footers. I made a couple of good birdies and making the pars on the tough par-4s was good."

Leta Lindley, who had a 72, and Sherri Steinhauer with a 74 tied for fifth at 1-under 215.

Davies found herself in trouble on the 1st hole, a 402-yard par-4 that tripped up most of the field. She hit a 3-iron into the bunker and wound up three-putting for a double-bogey that cost her two shots.

"I hit an appalling tee shot," she said. "You've goto put those bad shots behind you. That's why people win a lot more than others because it's the ability to forget about a bad swing and think about good stuff."

Moodie got her hopes up when she saw Davies stumble at the start in the overcast, cold conditions.

"Her starting with a double-bogey brings everybody back into the hunt," she said, "but she's just such a powerful lady."

More bad stuff was ahead for Davies, including a bogey on the 160-yard, par-3 3rd, where she landed in the bunker. But she rebounded with birdies at Nos. 5 and 11, and survived bogeys at Nos. 12 and 14 when none of the rest of the field could manage a serious run.

"We never saw the course when it was playing dry," Moodie said. "If the weather had gone good again, the winner might have been 12-under."

Famous for her length off the tees, Davies kept her driver in the bag because of the soggy conditions and elected to hit 3-irons on every hole but the par-3s.

"My game plan was to hit fairways. We were sacrificing about 40 yards of distance just so we'd be able to pick the ball up and clean it and place it," she said.

Divots: Davies said she'll play 28 tournaments this year, mostly in the United States, in order to chase her goals of being the LPGA's top money winner and player of the year. She led the money list in 1994 with $687,201 and was player of the year in 1996, but has never achieved both in the same season.

  • Allison Nicholas had the day's best round at 3-under 69 and wound up tied for 11th.
  • Defending champion Catrin Nilsmark tied for 49th with a final-round 77.
  • It wasn't a good tournament for Hall of Fame members Beth Daniel, Betsy King and Patty Sheehan. Daniel tied for 37th, King tied for 43rd and Sheehan tied for 64th in her first tournament in 11 months.
  • Mi Hyun Kim, last year's LPGA rookie of the year, had the best finish of the so-called "Seoul Sisters." Kim tied for seventh with a final round 75, while South Korean countrywomen Grace Park tied for 20th after a 75 and Se Ri Pak tied for 27th after a 72. Those three drew some of the week's largest galleries and the media attention of nearly 60 Korean journalists.

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