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Webb restakes her claim

The Australian rolls to an eight-shot win to capture the U.S. Women's Open and return to the top of the sport.

[Times photos: Name Here]
"I wanted to just enjoy the moment because I'm not going to get that many opportunities in my life to do that," said Karrie Webb after winning the Open.

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 4, 2001


SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- If there was a sense of urgency, a feeling that her time atop the game of women's golf had suddenly slipped away, Karrie Webb never let on. The victories were not coming as fast and furious, but so be it. Webb's woes? Hardly.

The game's most dominant player the past two seasons made her claim for the top spot again by cruising to an eight-shot victory over Se Ri Pak at the U.S. Women's Open.

With Annika Sorenstam nowhere to be found on the Sunday leaderboard, Webb claimed her first victory of the year on the LPGA Tour (she had two overseas) and has won three of the past seven major championships. Although Sorenstam has five victories, including a major, Webb let it be known that she intends to make some noise.

"It's a long year, and there's a lot of golf to be played. And hopefully some of the good golf is going to be played by me," said Webb, who earned $520,000 from the $2.9-million purse and moved into second on the LPGA money list behind Sorenstam with $878,588. "But if it's the only tournament I win all year, it's the U.S. Open and no one can take that away from me. And if someone tells me I'm only going to win one tournament a year, and it's going to be a major every year, I'll be quite happy with that.

"Any time you win a golf tournament it's rewarding, but to set your sights on the biggest one and pull it off is really rewarding. For things to go my way this week is really great."

Webb became the seventh player to defend her Open title, and did so with a 70-65-69-69 performance at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club. Her 7-under-par 273 was the only sub-par score for the week. The course yielded 26 scores in the 60s (out of 420), and Webb had three of them.

Her eight-stroke victory was the largest at a Women's Open since Amy Alcott defeated Hollis Stacy by nine in 1980. (The record is 14 shots by Louise Suggs in 1949.)

But Webb was considered an underachiever this year, especially after winning 13 times in 1999-2000, including two majors last year. Winless in nine starts, her three seconds and her fifth-place standing on the money list paled compared to the standards she set.

"She's played well and played well overseas this year, you can't dismiss that," said Dottie Pepper, who finished third, nine shots back. "She did what she had to do this week, which is put the ball in the fairway and put the ball on the greens. I'd be surprised if she didn't lead both of those categories."

Webb was third in fairways hit with 47 out of 56 and led the field in greens in regulation with 51 of 72. As solid as she was over the weekend, Webb all but won the event on Friday, when her course-record 65 not only put her on top but was completed before multiple weather delays that eventually caused the round to be suspended.

While Webb was able to sleep in Saturday morning, most of her peers were on a soggy course completing their second round. Then they had to play another 18 holes in the afternoon. Webb, meanwhile, only had her 18-hole round to worry about, and she increased her lead from three strokes to five.

"I thought I came in with my game in good shape," said Webb, 26, who has 24 LPGA titles. "I got off to a good start and the great round on Friday really set things up for me."

But there were some wobbly moments early on Sunday, and if Pak had made a few putts, who knows? She missed a short birdie putt at the first hole, then saw Webb make an 8-footer for bogey at the second. After pulling within three shots after a birdie at the fourth, Pak gave it back with a bogey at the fifth, then bogeyed No. 7 while Webb birdied. Pak never got closer than four strokes the rest of the way.

"You can't relax for one second on this golf course," said Pak, the 1998 Open champion who has won twice this year and earned $310,000 for second place. "So many things happen so quick. It was hard to hang in there. It's really, really tough on this golf course under these conditions."

With bogeys at the 16th and 17th holes by Pak, Webb no longer had any worries. She could stroll the fairway knowing the championship trophy would once again be hers. And she added another birdie for good measure.

"I wanted to just enjoy the moment because I'm not going to get that many opportunities in my life to do that," she said. "And to be able to do it two years in a row in my fifth and sixth Opens ... it's just a tremendous feeling."

Repeat champs

Karrie Webb is the seventh to win back-to-back U.S. Women's Open titles.

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