Davis Wins Tour Championship


Laura Davies was giving her putter a scolding that was meant more for herself. She had just missed a 2-footer on the 13th hole and panic was starting to set in once again.

Winning is never easy, even when you can hit the ball 50 yards past your playing partners.

"I thought, `You're going to blow this one," Davies said. "That's when I really started panicking."

The panic was premature, as Davies regrouped to play the last five holes 2-under Sunday to end the worst slump of her career by winning the LPGA Tour Championship.

The final margin was four strokes over a trio of golfers, but it wasn't until her final 8-iron landed within six feet on the 18th hole that Davies could finally feel secure in her first victory in the United States in 20 months.

"I was thinking even if I hit it in the water on 18 I could drop out and chip up and two-putt and still win," Davies said. "That's how I was thinking. It was that bad."

Davies, whose short-game woes toppled her from the top of women's golf to also-ran status over the last two seasons, struggled again with her putter and some shaky nerves before claiming the $215,000 first prize on the season-ending event.

She missed short birdie putts on the eighth and ninth holes and her lead was just one shot at the turn. Finally, though, an 8-foot putt found its way inside the right edge of the cup on the 10th hole for birdie, and Davies added two more down the stretch for a 3-under 69 and the win.

"This is a magnificent moment. You start doubting if you're ever going to win again," she said.

Davies reached both par-5s on the back nine in two shots and 2-putted both of them for the birdies that helped pad her final winning margin. She had the tournament wrapped up when she finally sunk a 6-footer for birdie on the last hole, then raised her arms in triumph.

Davies finished at 11-under, four ahead of Pat Hurst, Karrie Webb and Brandie Burton. Kelly Robbins and Juli Inkster finished another shot back.

It was the first LPGA win since March 1997 for Davies, who once reigned as the top women's player in the world but who struggled to even get into the elite field of top 30 money winners in the $1 million tournament.

But it did not come without some anxious moments, as Davies again and again missed short putts on the Desert Inn Country Club course that could have put the tournament out of reach early.

"This is as hard as I ever fought for a victory," she said. "It was unbelievable. I've never been so nervous."

In the end, however, Davies won the tournament the same way she led it from the start by sheer length off the tee that allowed her to hit irons to most of the par-5 holes and make two-putt birdies.

She capped it off with a birdie on the final par-5, the 15th, when she hit a 284-yard drive and followed it with a 7-iron to 10 feet. What would have been her fouth eagle of the tournament became a birdie instead when the putt just fell below the hole.

"That was probably the best two shots I can remember hitting under tournament pressure in a long while," Davies said.

Davies, who began the tournament by making three eagles and five birdies on the par-5s in the first two rounds, led wire-to-wire for her 15th LPGA win.

Hurst, who started the day three shots back, made an early move with three birdies on the front nine to pull to within one stroke. But then it was her turn to grimace as she lipped out short birdie putts on Nos. 10, 14 and 15.

"It seemed like there were three or four putts that all lipped out," said Hurst, who lost in a playoff in Las Vegas last year to Annika Sorenstam. "There's nothing you can do if the putts don't fall."

DIVOTS:

  • Sorenstam held on to become the LPGA's first player to average less than 70 strokes a round for the season but just barely. Sorenstam needed to shoot even par for the tournament and did just that, 3-putting the last hole for a 288 that gave her the Vare scoring trophy with a 69.99 average. "It was a difficult tournament because I was thinking so much about the numbers," said Sorenstam, who won in Las Vegas last year.
  • Sorenstam was never a factor in the tournament, but locked up the player of the year award when rookie Se Ri Pak finished the tournament 8-over.
  • Davies was 12-under on the par-5s for the week, while playing the rest of the holes 1-over.
  • Dale Eggeling, who got into the tournament only when Tammie Green withdrew because she was eight months pregnant, finished 5-under for a payday of $33,000.

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