2004: The flat stick does the trick

South Hadley, Mass.

A tip to competitors headed to the U.S. Senior Open: Might want to get a new putter in the bag. It’s a formula that worked for Retief Goosen as well as Meg Mallon, the newly minted 59th U.S. Women’s Open champion.

Mallon had been putting so poorly this season (she entered the Open ranked 78th among LPGA players) that she and Colorado-based instructor Mike McGetrick decided a new look would be good for her. So at last month’s McDonald’s LPGA Championship, out went her faithful old Ping B-60, and in went an Odyssey Rossie II mallet. And on Monday of tournament week at The Orchards, caddie John Killeen replaced the grip on Mallon’s putter with one that was thinner, and not so built up with tape.

In Sunday’s final round, Mallon made everything she looked at, needing only 24 putts in a final-round, 6-under 65. Included in the mix was a 54-foot, downhill breaker for birdie at the fourth and a 20-footer to save par after a poor chip at the par-4 15th, keeping her lead at four shots. That would prove key when Annika Sorenstam made 11th-hour birdies at her last two holes.

“I didn’t putt well at McDonald’s, but I stuck with it,” said Mallon. She quickly added with a smile, “After today, I think I’m going to bronze it. I haven’t putted like this in I can’t tell you how long. And to stand over the putter like that and have these amazing putts go in was so much fun.”

For the week, Mallon finished with 113 putts – second only to Michelle Redman’s 110. She tied Redman for most birdies (16). Mallon had a dozen fewer putts than Sorenstam, who finished two back.

As historic as Mallon’s bogey-free final round was – no Women’s Open winner has ever gone lower on Sunday – she didn’t consider it her best round of the week. That honor would be bestowed upon her opening 73, when she didn’t hit a fairway until her 10th hole but still managed to scramble for pars and got to the house in only 2 over.

She wouldn’t need to scramble much Sunday, when she hit 11 fairways and 13 greens and made sure most of her misses were in the right places. Caddie Killeen said the best part of Mallon’s game at The Orchards was her chipping. But he also credited experience and savvy, the red-hot putter and, as usual, that old Mallon passion.

“Meg has a little fire in her,” said Killeen. “You’re not Meg Mallon, Margaret Mary, for nothing. Trust me, I’ve seen it. She is a wonderful person, but at 41, she has some fire out here still.”

It’s not as if she didn’t know what her name looked like on that U.S. Women’s Open trophy. But now Meg Mallon gets to see it twice.

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