Mallon has been witness to LPGA history

Associated Press
Tuesday, March 20

At first, Meg Mallon thought nothing of it when every shot was like a laser coming off Annika Sorenstam's clubs, and every putt dropped for birdie.

Eight holes in a row. Twelve out of the first 13.

  Meg Mallon
Meg Mallon has made some history of her own, winning three majors.
"It was kind of funny," Mallon said. "The first few holes, I was furious because I'm getting my butt kicked. Then at the turn, it wasn't a matter of whether Annika was going to break 60. It was a matter of by how many."

If the final number looked familiar -- 59 -- so did Sorenstam's playing partner on the day she shattered the LPGA Tour record, not to mention a glass ceiling.

Mallon is the Forrest Gump of women's golf. She somehow winds up in the picture for every snapshot of LPGA history.

She was paired with Se Ri Pak in 1998 when the dynamic rookie shot what was then the lowest score in LPGA history, a 61 at the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic.

One year later, Mallon played the final 18 holes when Dottie Pepper shot the lowest 72-hole score in relation to par at a major championship, a 19-under 269 in the Nabisco Championship.

That summer, Juli Inkster became only the second woman to complete the modern career Grand Slam by winning the LPGA Championship with an eagle-birdie-birdie finish. Guess who was at Inkster's side as she walked up the 18th fairway?

"I had tears in my eyes to be a part of that," Mallon said.

If that's not enough, she was paired with Karrie Webb last summer in Chicago when the Aussie earned enough points to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame with her victory in the U.S. Women's Open.

"I've been a part of the best generation of golfers that has ever played," Mallon said, rattling off a list of Hall-of-Famers from Nancy Lopez to Beth Daniel and the foreign invasion led by Sorenstam, Pak and Webb. "I've seen a lot of great things, and I've been able to be a part of a lot of firsts for our tour."

She also has a message, the same words the LPGA used for a slick marketing campaign a couple of years ago.

Hey, we can play.

"Every year, we get a little bit better, but it's not by great leaps and bounds," Mallon said. "As far as the quality of golf, it has always been there. But we needed to get that message beyond our fans to the general public. And when Annika shoots 59, that helps."

No one ever shoots 59 without skepticism.

The conditions were too perfect, as they usually are in the desert. The course was too easy, maybe not a pitch-and-putt but not exactly the most challenging test of golf, either.

Perhaps Sorenstam could compare notes with David Duval.

"They were saying those same things about me," Duval said the morning after Sorenstam shot her 59 at Moon Valley Country Club in the Standard Register Ping. "They're always going to say that. But it's all relative to the other scores, isn't it?"

Duval didn't see many highlights from Sorenstam's historic round in the Arizona desert -- 13 birdies and five pars; only one drive that missed the fairway, and that by a foot; all 18 greens in regulation; no par putt longer than 3 feet.

The scores did not go unnoticed.

"The next best round I saw was a 64 and then a 66," Duval said. "She played five shots better than anybody else, seven shots better than the next person. How often do you see a five-shot difference? That's a good way to look at it."

That's how it was for Duval when he shot his 59 -- five strokes better than the next best round at the Bob Hope Classic two years ago.

Sorenstam's round was every bit as brilliant as Duval's 59, maybe even better considering Duval missed a green and twice had to hole par putts of at least 5 feet.

It deserves as much credit.

The prize money in men's and women's golf will never be the same, and neither will their length off the tee. But the rules are the same, and so is the objective.

Golf's magic number knows no gender. A 59 is a 59.

"It was the best thing for women's golf," said Mallon, who has seen her share of historic moments. "It was fun to be in that group and sense how the rest of the course was buzzing."

Poor Kris Tschetter. She left Moon Valley on Thursday after shooting 63, and before she hit another shot she already was 11 strokes behind.

Pak nearly went on to win the tournament. She caught Sorenstam with a birdie on the 14th hole Sunday, but gave it back with a bogey on the next hole and finished two behind.

"I make a new history pretty soon," Pak said.

A 58?

Only if Mallon is keeping her card.