Five-foot-tall Alison Nicholas of Britain, the shortest player on the European tour, won the $165,000 British Women's Open at St. Mellion, England, yesterday by one stroke over Laura Davies and Muffin Spencer-Devlin.

Nicholas, six times a runner-up on her side of the Atlantic but not a winner, shot birdie 4 at the 18th hole for par 73 and a 296 total. Spencer-Devlin, one of the few U.S. players entered, three-putted the 18th for 75 -- 297. Defending champion Davies, the new U.S. Open champion from England, had a 25-foot putt on the last hole for an eagle that would have tied Nicholas, but missed by six inches and she ended 73 -- 297.

"I have waited for this for a long time and it has been worth every minute," said Nicholas, 25.

Spencer-Devlin was within grasp of victory, two shots ahead with four holes to play. But she took a 5 at every one of them.

On the 18th, the American waited for her caddie to pace out her approach shot, then she hit to the middle of the green but at least 40 feet from the flag. She tapped her putt eight feet past the hole -- and missed the return.

Nicholas was on the edge of the green in 2 and played a superb chip to within a yard of the cup, making no mistake with that one to become the champion and collect $24,300.

"I just kept plugging away, getting pars, and I think the pressure got to Muffin in the end," Nicholas said.

Davies said she was pleased with her second place after having no time to practice following her U.S. Open playoff victory Tuesday.

"Finishing in the top three is absolutely marvelous," she said. "When I arrived and not even knowing the course, I thought that making the cut would be an achievement. But my driving let me down and I did not play my best golf on this course, which, in my opinion, is too difficult for us girls."

PGA:

Curtis Strange rolled home a six-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to avoid a five-way playoff and capture the $724,043 St. Jude Classic at Colonial Country Club, Cordova, Tenn., with 13-under-par 275 in 106-degree weather.

Strange shot a steady 69 on the 7,282-yard layout and took home a $130,328 winner's check that in the late going seemed destined for left-handed Russ Cochran.

Cochran, a stroke in front, bogeyed 17, then drove into the lake on the left of the 18th fairway and could only make a scrambling par 5. So Strange, winner of the Canadian Open last month, went to the 18th tee in a five-way tie with Cochran, Mike Donald, Denis Watson and Tom Kite.

Strange pushed his tee shot into short grass near a fairway trap on the 548-yard hole. A well-placed iron left the 11-year PGA Tour veteran 93 yards from the pin, and he pitched to within six feet.

He finished off the birdie and the tournament with a firm putt.

"I wouldn't want to be in the scorer's tent waiting for Curtis Strange to come to the last hole with 80 {sic} yards to go," Strange said, mentally putting himself in his rivals' place.

"That sounds a little rough and usually I don't say things like that, but I felt very confident today."

Senior PGA:

Gene Littler, usually the most consistent of players, was wildly inconsistent, yet won the $250,000 Commemorative by a stroke at Sleepy Hollow in Scarborough-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Littler carded 10 birdies and five bogeys in a 5-under-par 65 for a 54-hole total of 200, his first victory of the season and $37,500. Littler's last par was on the seventh hole. He followed with six birdies and five bogeys.

"Surely that couldn't have been done before, not by a guy who won the tournament," said Littler, 57.

But he ended just one stroke off the record 199 set last year by 1985 and '86 champion Lee Elder, who this time closed 68 -- 209, while Dale Douglass shot his third consecutive 67 for 201 but trailed by three until Littler bogeyed the last hole and Douglass birdied.

LPGA:

Chris Johnson, the leader all four days, shot 2-under-par 70 for a 277 total and a five-stroke victory in the $250,000 LPGA Pro-Am at Lone Tree in Englewood, Colo.