PALM HARBOR — Rosie Jones took the drama out of the Legends Tour Open Championship on Sunday at Innisbrook's Island Course. With a two-shot lead over Michele Redman after a scorching 67 Saturday, Jones kept on sprinting to the finish line with a final-round 68 on Sunday and a two day total of 9-under 135.
She beat playing partner Redman by five shots to cruise to her first Legends Tour win of the season and fourth overall. Jones, 51, was one of only three players to finish the 36-hole tournament under par. She earned $50,000 for the victory.
"I was kind of nervous overnight knowing there were some good players right behind me,'' Jones said. "I made a lot of good putts (Saturday), and you can't expect those to keep falling. I just wanted to get a few pars to start and go from there. My goal was to get to 8 under. I had that on the front nine so I had to re-evaluate. I wanted to get to 11 (under) and I could have; I was knocking the flags down. But I played mediocre on the back.''
The only way the field was going to catch Jones was if she faltered. Instead, she birdied the second, fourth and sixth holes to widen her lead. When she birdied the par-5, 10th hole, Jones was five shots clear of Redman and in control. Jones ended the tournament with eight straight pars.
"I had a lot of 7- or 8-footers,'' Jones said. "But even when you're 20 or 25 feet you feel like you can roll them in. I did that (Saturday), and I made the ones I should've made today. I played solid golf.''
When the day started, a handful of players had a chance of chasing down Jones. Not only was Redman lurking, but Barb Moxness was three shots back and Meg Mallon four back.
But none could keep up with Jones' pace. Redman could only watch as Jones rolled in birdies. Redman, a Legends Tour rookie at 45, had four birdies, but she also had three bogeys for a final-round 71.
"I just didn't hit the ball well (Sunday),'' Redman said. "I just wasn't that comfortable over the ball for some reason. Some days you are and some days you aren't.''
And Redman knew if she wasn't rolling in birdies, she wasn't going to catch Jones.
"She doesn't make any mistakes,'' Redman said. "She makes the putts when she has to, that's how she plays. She competes very hard.''
Moxness knew early on she wasn't going to catch Jones. Her goal became finishing third. When she made a 6-footer for par on the 18th hole to shoot 1-over 73, she pumped her fist in the air.
"Once I got to 14 or 15 and I wasn't 4 or 5 under I knew where I stood," Moxness said. "That's why making that putt on 18 was big for me.''
For the second straight day, Jones had the low round. Jane Crafter and Dawn Coe-Jones each shot 3-under 69. Crafter, who had a hole-in-one on the 13th hole, finished fourth. Coe-Jones was tied for 14th.
While this may have been Jones' first Legends Tour win this year, it wasn't the first time she has won a tournament in Pinellas County. In 1988 she won the S&H Classic LPGA event at Pasadena Country Club in St. Petersburg, her second win on tour. She ended her LPGA career with 13 wins.
But just because she won a Legends Tour event by five shots doesn't mean she is planning a comeback on the LPGA Tour.
"I like it out here,'' Jones said. "For me, on the LPGA Tour it's all about hitting the woods (driver). Out here I can use irons. I can use my whole bag. It's nice. I've had my time out there. This is where I belong.''