Jones' win first by an American in 17 LPGA events
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Rosie Jones ended a string of 17 straight tour wins by foreign-born players Sunday. Now she wants to break another streak.
Jones shot a 2-under-par 70 in the final round to win the Asahi Ryokuken International. It has been over a year since consecutive U.S. wins on the tour, and seven years since the same American won two in a row (Dottie Pepper in June 1996).
Jones is ready to win again. The next event is the LPGA Corning Classic in two weeks, which she said, ''is looking really good for me.''
''My game's looking really good right now,'' she added. ''I don't think I've hit it this good in a long time.''
Jones, who won her 13th career title and first since the Big Apple Classic in 2001, led after each round at Mount Vintange Plantation Golf Club. She finished at 15-under 273, three strokes ahead of Wendy Ward, who closed with a 70.
Laura Diaz (73), Patricia Meunier-Lebouc (67) and rookie Lorena Ochoa (70) tied for third another shot back.
Jones was the first American to win on the LPGA Tour since Meg Mallon took the Canadian Women's Open in August. Two years ago, Jones ended a 10-tournament winless run by the Americans with a victory at the Kathy Ireland event in Texas.
''I was talking about that on the drive here,'' Jones said. ''It's just kind of funny that, two years ago, that it was 10 wins before an American hit one and I got it there. And I'm just glad to do it'' this time.
Jones and other Americans brushed aside the international rivalry, saying they were proud the world's best women played on their tour. However, U.S. golfers have struggled this year.
In addition to not winning a tournament, only two of the top-10 players on the money list before the event were Americans -- Cristie Kerr (sixth) and Pat Hurst (ninth).
There were a few times this week when patriotism was on display. Ward and Jones, U.S. Solheim Cup teammates last year, shared a fist pump and a shout of ''Americans .... yeah,'' when the United States held the first five places after the second round Friday.
Jones' Solheim teammates Ward, Diaz and Hurst hung around the 18th green to warmly congratulate their winning friend.
''I think it's great that they waited,'' Jones said. ''We have such great friendships out here.''
Ward said Sunday she didn't think questions about the streak ''have a whole lot of value, but it makes it fun to see a good friend win.''
Jones led Diaz by two strokes at the start of the final round, and quickly extended the advantage. Jones rolled in birdie putts of 5 feet at No. 1 and 8 feet at the fourth.
The fiery Jones swept her arm across as the putt at No. 4 dropped, lifting her four shots clear of the fading field.
Jones played the remainder of the round steadily and safely, hitting fairways and greens. She squandered chances to extend the lead, missing a 5-foot birdie try on the sixth, and an 8-foot attempt on the seventh.
Jones came up big when she needed it most.
''I think I made a lot of four footers that saved the day'' this week, Jones said.
After chunking a sand shot at the par-3, 15th, Jones rolled in a 15-foot putt for bogey. And earlier on the eighth hole, she curled in a testy, 12-foot par putt and kicked her leg high as if she'd already won the tournament.
Essentially, she had.
The 28-year-old Diaz could only watch as her playing partner hit approach shots closer and made the putts.
Diaz's charge all but ended at the fifth hole when she drove into the woods, chipped out and made a double-bogey to fall six off the pace.
Ward made four straight birdies on Nos. 3-6 to get to 13 under, within two shots of Jones. But she faltered with a run of four bogeys in her next five holes. Ward tried to rally later in the round, making eagle on the par-4 13th and birdie on the 14th, but she couldn't get closer to the final margin.
Jones said she never noticed Ward's struggles and didn't know until late that she held a large lead coming in. ''That made me not let up,'' Jones said.
In honor of Mother's Day, all women were admitted free to Mount Vintage. A daily ticket costs $30. ... Paula Creamer, a 16-year-old amateur playing her first LPGA event, shot a 78 and finished at 7-over 295. ... Danielle Ammaccapane's 66 included a hole in one on the 11th hole.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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