tampabay.com

Webb's win like old times

By BOB HARIG
Published April 4, 2006


The victories stopped coming so quickly and it remains difficult to figure out if lack of motivation was the cause or result.

Karrie Webb had 30 LPGA Tour titles. She won six major championships. Last November she was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine.

With that kind of success, it would be easy to move on to something else in life and let the younger players have their time.

Except Webb was all of 30 years old.

She had done it all, and now what?

From a small town in Australia, Webb had come to the United States and become an instant star on the LPGA Tour. For a time, she was the player to beat, ahead of Annika Sorenstam . She won a career Grand Slam before Tiger Woods did in the men's game.

And then ...

"I think I realized how hard it was for me to say that I took things for granted," Webb said Sunday after her victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

"I know that I really, really didn't enjoy winning and what comes with that. That's probably why I was trying so hard. I wanted to feel this again and enjoy it and really appreciate it."

It would be difficult not to have those feelings now.

Webb's seventh major title Sunday might be the most memorable of all. She held off two of the game's rising stars, Michelle Wie and Natalie Gulbis . She holed a wedge shot for an eagle on the final hole, then watched Lorena Ochoa make an eagle putt after hitting a 5-wood onto the green. And then she defeated Ochoa on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff with a birdie putt.

Two years had passed since her last victory, four since her last major.

And it came a day after shooting 76, which caused her to doubt herself again. Webb was seven strokes back to start the day and shot 65.

"It's great for my confidence, that I know I can do this again," she said. "But I obviously do battle the same demons I've been battling for a while. But this is definitely putting a foot in the right direction and giving me some relief.

"I just hope it gives me a jump start into playing the golf I know I can play and gives me that belief to keep working and to keep doing what I'm doing."

NO NELSON: Byron Nelson has been at the Masters every year since 1935 and won the tournament in 1937 and 1942. But Nelson, 94, will be unable to attend this week because it is getting increasingly difficult for him to travel. Nelson, who has long presided over the Tuesday night Champions Dinner, asked Ben Crenshaw to take his place tonight.

"I am so honored," said Crenshaw, who won the 1984 and 1995 Masters.

"Byron Nelson called me and said, "Ben, I want you to take over."'

MAKING CHANGES: Augusta native Charles Howell is playing in his fifth Masters, but it is the first time that noted instructor David Leadbetter won't be with him. Howell, 26, has worked with Leadbetter since age 14, but the former NCAA champion at Oklahoma State has just one PGA Tour victory. Howell is now working with Brian Mogg , a former PGA Tour player who used to work for Leadbetter.

"I looked at my game overall, not just this year, but over the last few years," Howell said. "I finished second six or seven times, and frankly I just need to get better. I'm not playing to the level that I want to be playing to. If I want to win the golf tournaments I want to win, this (the Masters) being No.1 on the list and hopefully a few others, then I've got to get better.

"I felt it was time for a change. I know that I can't work any harder. I know that I can't want it any more and I know that I can't do anything else apart from what I am doing. So I just need to do a different path."

AROUND GOLF: Defending champion Tiger Woods played a practice round at Augusta National on Monday with 1998 champion Mark O'Meara and 2005 PGA Tour rookie of the year Sean O'Hair . ... Phil Mickelson 's victory at the BellSouth Classic was the 28th of his career, tying him with Vijay Singh for 20th on the all-time PGA Tour victory list. ... Jose Maria Olazabal finished second to Mickelson at the BellSouth for the second straight year. His total of 15 under would have won each of the previous four BellSouth events that went 72 holes (2001-04). ... Steve Elkington , who was runnerup to Mickelson at the PGA Championship last year, withdrew from the Masters on Monday due to a groin injury that also kept him out of the Players Championship.