Golf: Nicholas makes a winning recovery

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The Independent Online
ALISON NICHOLAS had every reason to expect a rosy future when she made her major breakthrough by winning the US Open in 1997. However, the past 19 months have been anything but kind to the British golfer and it was with a sense of relief that she greeted victory in the LPGA Hawaiian Open here at the weekend.

Despite struggling to a one-over-par 73 in the final round of the 54- hole event, Nicholas held off the challenges of Moira Dunn and Annette DeLuca to record a one-stroke victory. In winning the pounds 67,000 top prize, Nicholas took home more than she had earned in total since her US Open victory.

"Last year was a tough year," Nicholas said. "I won the US Open in 1997 and I suffered from the pressure beyond that. Last year I was ill and fell off a moped, so this is a great change. I'm delighted to be back in the winner's circle.

"I expected too much, to do well every week. I suppose I became very busy and I didn't have time for myself. I didn't come out until Phoenix [in March] and that's a late start. I got pneumonia on top of that. So I was stop-start all year."

Nicholas started the final round here as co-leader with Michelle McGann. With the weather unpredictable, the Briton's game plan was to hit the middle of the greens and play for pars. Her score was not spectacular, but she finished on a seven-under-par total of 209, which proved good enough.

"I thought par or one over par would be good," she said. "To get that, I had to hit the middle of the greens and two-putt. Because of the weather, I knew it was going to be tough for everyone. I thought someone from the middle of the field would come up."

Nicholas added: "On the fifth tee we were absolutely soaked. It reminded me of home."

By the turn Nicholas had pulled away to a three-stroke lead. A chip to two feet on the 426-yard seventh hole gave her the only birdie on her card. She had bogeys at the 13th and on the closing hole, but the outcome was settled by then.

Dunn, with a final round of 68, and DeLuca, with a 70, had birdies late in the round to go to six under, but it was too little, too late.