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Webb's birdie run good for LPGA lead

Karrie Webb calmly shoots 7-under 64 to set two records and take a three-shot lead.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 23, 2001

WILMINGTON, Del. -- Karrie Webb closed out her best score in a major championship with a 4-foot birdie putt and a gentle fist pump, slightly more emotion that she showed earlier Friday when she was grinding to make par.

The score -- 7-under 64 to set two LPGA Championship records -- and the demeanor left an impression on Laura Davies.

"She doesn't get agitated. She doesn't get excited," Davies said. "People criticize her for not having an idiot grin on her face all day. That's her. She's just doing what she does best in her own way. I admire her for not walking around, smiling like a clown all day."

The only clown at DuPont Country Club is the big balloon of Ronald McDonald on top of the clubhouse. Webb was all business, and wound up halfway home to a career Grand Slam.

With birdies on eight of her last 12 holes, and taking only 10 putts on her final nine holes, Webb built a three-stroke lead over Helen Alfredsson and Wendy Ward and was poised to turn another major into a runaway.

"Surprise, isn't it?" said Alfredsson, asked about Webb's name atop the leaderboard and trying to catch her.

Webb, hitting as well as she did three weeks ago when she won the U.S. Women's Open by seven strokes, was at 11-under 131 to break by two strokes the 36-hole scoring record at the LPGA Championship.

Se Ri Pak had 133 at the halfway point when she won in 1998.

All aspects of Webb's game were in harmony along the front nine at DuPont despite blustery conditions and firm greens.

Webb had 29 on the front -- she started the round on No. 10 -- for the lowest nine-hole score in the 47-year history of the championship.

"All the things that I worked on leading up to the Open all peaked at the right time," said Webb, who was questioned about a so-called slump earlier this year. "It's sort of just a continuation. I knew if I got my putter going this week, I was swinging it just as good as I was at the Open."

The 64 not only put Webb in good position to claim the only major she hasn't won, it left others wondering whether she could be caught.

Ward (69) and Alfredsson (66) were at 134. Davies remained in contention for her bid to make the Hall of Fame with 68 to get to 135.

Nancy Lopez had rounds of 79-74 to miss the cut.

Annika Sorenstam was tied for the lead after birdies on two of her first three holes, but played even the rest of the way and had 69, leaving her six strokes back.

"If she keeps playing like she's playing, I tell you, she's going to win. It's as simple as that," said Davies, who played with Webb the first two rounds. "There's nothing I can do about it or anyone else, unless you go very, very low. It's great for us to all be chasing such high standards."

There was no catching the 26-year-old Webb on a cloudy, windy day.

With her parents watching from the gallery, a rare visit from Australia, Webb didn't look ready for a round during which she separated herself from the field.

Her opening tee shot landed behind a small pine, leaving her no choice but to chip out to the fairway, and Webb two-putted from 45 feet for bogey. She picked up another bogey with a three-putt on No. 15, then drove into the rough and no chance to reach the par-5 16th in two.

Just like that, a scratchy round turned spectacular.

Only one of her eight birdies putts was longer than 6 feet.

Despite a round of nine birdies, the turning point was a par -- a 7-foot putt on her 11th hole. She birdied the next three.

"We've still got a long way to go, and anything can happen," said Webb, who has won six of the past seven times when leading after 36 holes.

"You can't let her get too far ahead," said Ward, who had nice par saves on the 16th and 17th holes and a 7-iron out of the rough to about 7 feet for birdie on the final hole.

"You know she is going to be pretty steady and not make many mistakes," Ward said. "Yeah, we're going to have to catch her. The way I do that is hitting fairways and greens and making birdies, and not really watching what she does."

Webb would be the second player in three years to win the U.S. Open and LPGA Championship just 21 days apart to complete the Grand Slam.

Juli Inkster did it in 1999 and came to DuPont this year trying to become the second woman to win a major three years in a row. Inkster had another 71, leaving her 11 back.

Four other women have won the Grand Slam -- Inkster, Pat Bradley, Mickey Wright and Louise Suggs. Wright was 27 when she won the final leg in 1962.

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