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Mallon spoils ‘Kane-adians’ dream finish

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AYLMER, Quebec — All the elements were there for the Maple Leaf feel-good story of the year: A Canadian golfing sensation poised to win the final du Maurier Classic, probably the last women's major championship to ever be played in the country.

"I was writing a story," Lorie Kane said. "I just didn't get the ending."

Instead it was an American with a black cap and a steady game, Meg Mallon, who dictated the final round of the du Maurier.

Mallon's nearly flawless display of high-stakes golf Sunday gave her a one-shot victory over Rosie Jones and her first major championship since 1991.

Annika Sorenstam, tied with Kane as the day began and three strokes ahead of Mallon, finished another shot back in third after a 74. Kane tied for fifth with Juli Inkster, four shots back, after shooting a 4-over 76 Sunday.

It was all a huge disappointment for the thousands of spectators who flocked to the Royal Ottawa Golf Club expecting to see Kane win her second consecutive LPGA Tour event and become only the second Canadian to ever win a major women's tournament.

Mallon, who won $180,000, said she didn't feel too bad about ruining the script of the "Kane-adians," as Kane's fans have started to call themselves.

"That's kind of what I set out to do today, unfortunately," Mallon said.

With Kane coming off a victory last week at St. Louis, and wanting to win in front of her home-country crowd to convince another company to succeed du Maurier as sponsor of the tournament, Mallon said the strain probably had to show in Kane's game at some stage.

Du Maurier is a brand name for Imperial Tobacco and sharp restrictions on cigarette advertising taking effect in Canada next year will force the company to cut ties with an event it has sponsored since 1984.

The tournament, rotated among top Canadian courses, has been an LPGA major since 1979.

"I'm sure she was just thoroughly exhausted by the time today came," Mallon said of Kane. "And probably judging from how I saw she was hitting it behind me, that's probably a little bit of how she lost her swing — the exhaustion."

And anyway, Mallon said, Canadians should be at least a little happy she won their tournament.

"I'm from Michigan, so I'm part Canadian I guess," she said.

Kane said she was so fatigued that she would decide later whether she will play in the Women's British Open next weekend or stay home.

Knowing it was the last du Maurier, Kane said it was an emotional experience being in the last group on the 18th green Sunday as some of Canada's best-ever women professional golfers looked on.

"I made the last putt — the whole time I was thinking about that, standing over it," the Prince Edward Island resident said. "And I had a tear coming down my face. And I said, 'You've got to put the ball in the hole, and then carry on."'

Mallon shot a 3-under 69 Sunday and finished at 6-under 282. Kane and Sorenstam started the day six under and it seemed their head-to-head matchup in the last pairing of the day, would decide the tournament.

But Mallon was masterful in a four-birdie, one-bogey round on a hot day.

She birdied Nos. 4, 7 and 9 to get to six under. Still there at the par-4 15th, she endured her most anxious moment by rolling in a 7-foot par putt.

That maintained her one-stroke lead over Jones.

Mallon followed that with a 15-foot birdie putt on 16 for a two-shot lead. With that cushion, Mallon made a cautious bogey at 18 to win by one.

It was her 13th career tour victory and second this year.

Mallon's other major championship victories both came in 1991, at the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Open. She has been a fixture on leaderboards at majors for a decade and the du Maurier was the 17th time in her career she has finished in the top 10 in a major.

She said Sunday's win erased the memories of this year's U.S. Open when she finished second to Karrie Webb after shooting a final-round 74.

Jones started the day at one under and birdied Nos. 3, 6, 8 and 10 to get into second place behind Mallon. She made a sensational par save on the par-4 16th after missing the green left with her approach and chipping within about 20 feet.

That kept her one stroke behind Mallon, but Jones missed birdie putts of 15 feet or longer on Nos. 17 and 18 that could have put more pressure on Mallon.

Jones' 68 was the best round of the day.

Jones has never won a major championship, but has finished second or third four times.

"I had chances, I left a lot out there," she said. "It's really frustrating to be so close and, never having won a major, I just really didn't want to be this close again and not be taking home that trophy."

The Sorenstam-Kane duel fizzled early as each had two bogeys over the first four holes. Kane briefly took a one-shot lead with a birdie on 4, but she bogeyed 7 and 8, while Sorenstam lost yet another stroke at 7 as both shot 3-over 39s on the front.

Kane kept her fans' hopes alive briefly with a birdie on 10 from about 10 feet, but then she bogeyed the par-4 13th by failing to get up and down from the rough left of the fringe.

Then she hooked her drive on the par-5 14th out of bounds, made a bogey and fell to two under.

Sandra Post was the only other Canadian to win a major tournament, the 1968 LPGA Championship.

Inkster, seeking her second major title of the year, never had consecutive birdies during her final-round 72.

Webb shot a 70 and finished at 1-over 289. She would have pocketed a $1 million bonus from Nabisco for winning three of the four majors on tour in 2000.