Merten Enjoys a Big Finish : Golf: She birdies two of the last three holes at Crooked Stick to win U.S. Open by one shot.

From Associated Press

She knows what it means to go from tournament to tournament, scrambling to make the cut, hoping to cover her expenses.

In fact, it has been nine years since she won a tournament. But say this for Lauri Merten: She knows how to pick her spots.

On Sunday at Crooked Stick Golf Club, with a closing charge befitting a champion, she won the U.S. Women's Open, the most prestigious title in women's golf.

"It was tough," said Merten, 33, of Greenville, Del. "I went through some very, very lean years."

With birdies on two of the last three holes, she shot a four-under-par 68 for an eight-under total of 280--one stroke ahead of Helen Alfredsson of Sweden and Donna Andrews.

Merten chipped in from about 70 feet for a birdie on the 404-yard 16th hole. Then she got to eight under when her 166-yard approach shot stopped about three feet from the cup on the 18th.

Merten, who started the day five shots behind Alfredsson, had six birdies and two bogeys in her round.

"I was just trying to be patient on those three holes," she said of the finish. "I took some shots that I'll probably never be able to take again."

Merten, who had not won since 1984, missed the cut in two of her last three tournaments and finished in a tie for 75th in the other. She earned $144,000 for her third tour victory and nearly doubled her previous winnings of $175,706 this year.

Alfredsson, who began the round leading by two strokes, tied for second at 281 with a 74. She pushed a 15-foot putt on the final hole to the right of the cup that would have forced an 18-hole playoff today.

"I thought the putt was going right to left and it just went straight," said Alfredsson, who made only one birdie in the final round after setting a 54-hole tournament record with a nine-under 207.

"I couldn't get comfortable today. I couldn't make any putts. . . . I don't know if I've ever felt this disappointed in my life. I don't know how much this will affect me."

Andrews, one of four women to lead during the final round, closed with a 71.

"I think I was aggressive where I needed to be," she said. "I played my game."

Pat Bradley, who had moved to eight under in quest of duplicating her 1981 Open triumph, faded with a bogey on No. 15 and a double-bogey on No. 16 to finish tied for fourth at 73 with a 283 total.

Hiromi Kobayashi of Japan was tied with Bradley. Defending champion Patty Sheehan was at 284.

The start of play was delayed an hour because of an overnight storm that struck the course just north of Indianapolis. Workers began removing debris, pumping flooded bunkers and drying greens that were covered by water around 5 a.m.--less than four hours before play was to begin.

Officials said 15 trees toppled on the course and another 25 were severely damaged by winds of up to 50 m.p.h.

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