ROCKLAND, CAL. — ROCKLAND, Del. -- Beth Daniel saw it raining when she got up yesterday morning and could not wait to get to the golf course.
"The longer a course plays, the more it is to my advantage. I love it when the ball doesn't roll," Daniel said after a four-shot victory in the McDonald's Championship.
At the start of the final round, Sally Little had a two-shot lead on Daniel and three on Pat Bradley. It took Daniel four holes to tie for the lead and she stayed at thetop the rest of the way, finishing with a 3-under-par 68 and a total of 11-under 273.
Little (74) and Bradley (71) stayed in contention but never mustered a charge, tying for second at 277. They were trailed by Michelle McGann and Ayako Okamoto at 278. Each shot 70, and the finish was the best of McGann's three-year career.
The win, No. 27 for Daniel, was worth $112,500 from the $750,000 purse. Beginning with the Greater Washington Open at Bethesda CC 22 months ago, Daniel has won 13 of the 40 events she has entered, with 31 top-10 finishes.
The tournament may have been won late Saturday afternoon, when Daniel went to the driving range, worked on a couple of things and "got good thoughts" for the last day.
On the first two holes, Daniel hit a 3-iron and a 4-iron to successive greens, while playing partners Little and Bradley hit woods each time.
A steady rain on an already sodden Du Pont Country Club course stuck around for the first nine holes, at which point Daniel had a one-shot lead. She bogeyed the 10th with three putts, then jumped ahead to stay with birdie putts of 9 and 15 feet on the next two holes.
Daniel, the defending champion in this week's LPGA Championship at Bethesda CC, a course where she has finished 2-1-1 in her three starts, said that because she hits the ball high and carries it a long way, the conditions definitely favored her.
And they did.
"In the five years here, this course never played this long," Bradley said. "With Beth's length, height [5-foot-11], and arc, she definitely hits it longer than both of us [Bradley and Little].
"I did not give myself a whole lot of chances, and it made for a struggle," Bradley said. "Beth is one of the best long-iron players, and took the pressure off herself by getting in position for birdies. The ball was on her side and she took full advantage."
Daniel got some breathing room when her closest pursuers both bogeyed the 14th hole. It left Little two back and Bradley four.
"It didn't really change the way I played. I still felt I needed another birdie," Daniel said, referring to her margin after Little hit into the water at No. 15, came up short of the green, then two-putted from 6 feet for double bogey.
Daniel got the birdie she didn't need with a sand wedge shot to 12 feet and a putt. Little, who had not challenged for a title (or held a lead after three rounds) since winning the du Maurier in 1988, said her timing was not as good as the previous days. "A lot of that had to do with the rain," she said.
"The ninth was crucial because that is not a bogey hole, and I three-putted from 50 feet. I still thought I was in it, but at 14, I hit a bad chip, took two putts from 5 feet, and it rattled me."
Later, she summed up her effort: "I'm terribly excited. This is a major lift. I might have lost the tournament, but I won a big battle with myself. It feels like I'm really ready to play well in the next fTC few weeks."
Meanwhile, it had been vintageDaniel on Saturday, saying her swing wasn't right and she didn't chip very well. It had been the same at the Phar-Mor tournament at Inverrary in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in February, where she was coming back from shoulder and collarbone problems, did not have high expectations and beat Nancy Lopez by two strokes.
"Yes, I bitch and moan. I do that because it gets me fired up," Daniel said.
And don't mention the other players. For the past 22 months, they have not found a way to extinguish those flames.
=/Beth Daniel, $112,500 . . . . 67-71-67-68--273
Pat Bradley, $60,000. . . . . 69-67-70-71--277
Sally Little, $60,000 . . . . 67-69-67-74--277
Michelle McGann, $35,625. . . 70-66-72-70--278
Ayako Okamoto, $35,625. . . . 70-65-73-70--278
Kristi Albers, $24,187. . . . 68-70-72-69--279
Tammie Green, $24,187 . . . . 64-71-72-72--279
Dottie Mochrie, $19,500 . . . 70-68-70-72--280
Dawn Coe, $14,133 . . . . . . 72-71-68-70--281
Trish Johnson, $14,133. . . . 72-69-70-70--281
Vicki Fergon, $14,133 . . . . 70-70-71-70--281
Jane Geddes, $14,133. . . . . 71-69-70-71--281
Missie McGeorge, $14,133. . . 70-68-70-73--281
Sherri Steinhauer, $14,133. . 70-68-69-74--281
Stephanie Maynor, $10,888 . . 70-69-70-73--282
Ok-Hee Ku, $9,763 . . . . . . 73-68-71-71--283
Carolyn Hill, $9,763. . . . . 69-68-74-72--283
Betsy King, $9,763. . . . . . 69-71-68-75--283
Caroline Keggi, $8,825. . . . 68-74-69-73--284
Nancy Lopez, $8,825 . . . . . 71-71-68-74--284
Laura Davies, $7,899. . . . . 68-69-75-73--285
Missie Berteotti, $7,899. . . 70-68-73-74--285
Cathy Gerring, $7,899 . . . . 69-68-73-75--285