Rosie Jones ready to defend her title

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Rosie Jones has the perfect plan to ease into retirement -- a second straight victory in this tournament. Nagging injuries, including chronic neck pain, led Jones to reduce her LPGA schedule in 2005, playing in no more than 15 tournaments. But Jones, who lives in Atlanta, plans to keep the Asahi Ryokuken International on her schedule along with the majors and a few other tournaments. "I love to play near home and I love to play this golf course," Jones said last month during a publicity stop. "Anytime I win a tournament, you know I love the golf course." Jones led after each round last year, shooting a 15-under 273 to finish three strokes ahead of Wendy Ward. Laura Diaz, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and then-rookie Lorena Ochoa were another shot back. The tournament starts Thursday, with Jones, Ochoa, Grace Park and Cristie Kerr the favorites. Ochoa has won twice on tour this year and is third on the money list. Park won the year's first major at the Nabisco Championship. Kerr is a three-time winner in 2004. Previous champions Tina Fischer (2001) and Janice Moodie (2002) will also play in the event, which is in its fourth year. It also is the final full-field event this season for the LPGA, and some of the 144 golfers will be trying to secure their exempt status based on their ranking on the money list. Jones tamed the par-72 course last year, shooting at least 2 under in each round. But she said holding the tournament in the fall could make a difference. The last two were in May. "Playing in October, the grass will have had a full summer to grow in, and as a result, it will make the course play different," Jones said. "The rough will be heavier and the fairways will be a little fluffier." Jones has been troubled by neck pain for years, and the problem flared up last year. "I started having pain again and didn't really think it was a big deal, but it is," Jones said. "I have had to take some time off during the season this year, and other than finishing second twice, I have not had a great year." So a successful defense of her title Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club would be especially gratifying. "I don't want to go out playing mediocre golf," she said.