Davies delivers in McDonald's Three late pars seal 1-stroke win


WILMINGTON, Del. -- Laura Davies, holding onto a one-stroke lead, had to sweat out a 63-minute rain delay, then make three pressure pars in a row to claim the LPGA McDonald's Championship at DuPont Country Club yesterday.

The title was hers to win or lose, as Sherri Steinhauer was in the locker room with a closing 67 and a 6-under-par total of 279 when play was suspended in mid-afternoon.

The drama was capsulized on the 18th hole, a 400-yard dogleg, where Davies -- "playing too safely" -- hit her drive out to the right, and hit a 5-iron shot that settled in heavy rough to the right of the green.

She got the ball out to six feet, and rolled in the putt. The 69 gave her a 72-hole score of 277, and brought a check for $135,000.

"I had a terrible lie in the grass," Davies, 29, said of the finish. "I've been working hard on the short game and it paid off there. Then, for a second, I thought I'd missed the putt right, but it went in."

She said she spent the delay "worrying," although her European friends were encouraging her, telling her not to worry.

Helen Alfredsson of Sweden shot 67 and climbed into a tie for third with Lauri Merten (70) at 279.

It was Davies' fifth LPGA win in six tour years, and first since San Diego more than two years ago. It also gave the foreign players a 5-5 tie in wins with their American counterparts after 10 tour events.

A trimmer Davies, who has lost more than 40 pounds over the past year, has been successful elsewhere if not in this country. The active player, 29, won five times last year in Europe and Asia, and took a title in Thailand in January.

"The weight loss has meant a smoother swing, I'm hitting it farther, and I feel better out on the course," Davies added.

Once Steinhauer, 30, got to 6-under at No. 7, she played steadily the rest of the way, offsetting a bogey at the 14th with a birdie at the 16th.

"After the birdie on No. 4 [her third in the first four holes], I wasn't watching the leader board. I just wanted to keep playing well, keep plugging away, and making birdies.

"I had a lot of close putts that didn't fall on the back nine. If it's your time to win, those go in. Looking back, I concentrated real well all week and didn't make any stupid mistakes."

Tina Barrett closed with a rush, birdieing the last three holes for 68284, a tie for 18th, and a check for $11,095. The fifth-year pro came in with a final-round scoring average of 72.5 for seven events, and the 68 bettered her previous best of the season by two shots.

The Baltimorean had a streaky round, starting with four straight pars, no pars in the next six holes (three birdies, three bogeys), then five pars, and her closing rally.

Along the way was a bunker shot to six feet and a par-saving putt at the 14th; a marvelous 3-wood second that set up a 32-yard wedge shot to the 16th green, the ball stopping six inches from the cup.

At the 156-yard 17th, her 5-iron shot checked up four feet past the flagstick, and at the 400-yard dogleg 18th, she landed a 3-iron shot 30 feet short and rolled in the putt.

She was pleased with the outcome, but admitted that she felt better about her putting earlier in the week than in the final round.

She took 29 putts, getting the last one on line, with the only question of whether it was stroked hard enough.

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