FORT WORTH, Texas -- The hottest woman turned out to be the 1991 U.S. Women's Open champion, but it had nothing to do with the extreme temperatures or temperaments of the week.
It had everything to do with how Meg Mallon kept putting herself in position to win her second women's major championship in three weeks yesterday at Colonial Country Club.
Mallon, the 28-year-old LPGA sensation who hadn't won a tournament until this year, shot a 4-under-par 67 to finish at 1-under 283 and beat Pat Bradley by two shots. Mallon trailed Bradley by three shots with 10 holes to play.
Her charge past Bradley and Amy Alcott on the last eight holes stunned everyone, including herself.
"No one is more surprised than I am right now at how things turned out," Mallon said. "It's just a good time for my putter to get hot."
Tina Barrett of Baltimore closed with a 71 -- a score bettered by only four players in the final round -- and a total of 291. It placed her in a tie for 11th and ensured an automatic berth in next year's U.S. Women's Open, scheduled for Oakmont CC in suburban Pittsburgh.
For the round, she had two birdies and two bogeys on each nine. She missed three fairways and they led to her missing three greens and three of her four bogeys. After going 2-over for the side, she rolled in birdie putts of 12 and 15 feet on Nos. 14 and 15.
"I hit it 10 times better than last week [actually two weeks ago, at the LPGA Championship in Bethesda]," she said. "I had a 5-iron in my hand and knew I could hit the green. It's a matter of confidence."
She showed this on the ninth hole, where she hit her second shot into the pond in front of the green, put her approach 20 feet above the pin and made the putt.
For the week, she had all facets of her game working well. Driving it in the fairways set up strong middle irons to the greens and her putting was solid.
The other Baltimore interest, former resident Sarah LeBrun Ingram, birdied two of the last five holes for 74-298 and, for all intents and purposes, locked up a Curtis Cup invitation for next year.
Mallon, who began the day two shots back of co-leaders Bradley and Joan Pitcock, birdied the 11th hole from 21 feet. She followed with birdies at 14 and 15. But her accuracy extended throughout the round. She hit 17 of 18 greens and 12 of 14 fairways.
The day was a microcosm of her career: After three years of building, Mallon has struck oil in 1991 with three titles.
"I think she thinks she can win," Alcott said. "She's in a period of her life now where she's making the transition from contender to winning. You don't know why until you sit down and figure out that you let yourself win. Sometimes there is an element of fear: You can be scared to win. Plus, I think she is a happy person. Some people tell themselves they don't deserve to win."
Mallon took the championship from two players sitting on the doorstep of the LPGA Hall of Fame.
Bradley, who shared the lead the first three rounds, birdied two of the first three holes. She had a two-shot lead until bogeys on the ninth and 10th dropped her to 1 over. Then she made eight straight pars.
Alcott, who began the day one shot behind Bradley, couldn't take advantage, either. Alcott, who needs one victory to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame, couldn't make a birdie until she sank a 10-footer at No. 13. She birdied the next hole from 25 feet. At that point, she was tied with Mallon at par.
But, like Bradley, Alcott couldn't make a charge. Brandie Burton's errant tee shot caused a delay on the 16th tee, and Alcott three-putted for a bogey that ended her chances.
"I thought I had a good day," Bradley said. "I shot an even par, and so many times that will do it. But someone in front of me got in the clubhouse early, made a few more putts, and what can I say? I have nothing to be ashamed of.
"I congratulate Meg. She's on a roll, and she's riding it to the fullest. I don't blame her at all."
Mallon birdied the par-5 first and third holes, but it could have been better. She missed an 8-footer for eagle on the third and a 6-footer for birdie on the tough fourth hole. After a bogey out of the sand trap on the par-3 eighth, she was three shots behind Bradley.
When she reached the 13th tee, the scorer told her of Bradley's bogey at No. 10. After her birdie at 15, a boy ran up to her and said she had sole possession of the lead.
"I said, 'Thanks, but I'd rather not hear that now,' " Mallon said.
The winner . . .
Meg Mallon 70-75-71-67-283
. . . and followers
Pat Bradley 69-73-72-71-285
Amy Alcott 75-68-72-71-286
Laurel Kean 70-76-71-70-287
Dottie Mochrie 73-76-68-71-288
Chris Johnson 76-72-68-72-288
Joan Pitcock 70-72-72-75-289
Kristi Albers 76-70-71-73-290
Jody Anschutz 73-72-72-73-290
Brandie Burton 75-71-69-75-290
Complete scores: Page 6C