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Webb has sights on the Slam

She didn't play superbly, but she maintains 3-shot lead.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001

WILMINGTON, Del. -- She struggled to find her swing, and par putts dipped in and out of the hole, but the only thing that mattered to Karrie Webb at the end of a tough day was the score.

She still had a three-stroke lead in the LPGA Championship, and she is 18 holes from a career Grand Slam.

"I'm by no means getting ahead of myself," the 26-year-old Australian said Saturday after 1-under 70. "I don't believe I've won this tournament, and I won't believe it until I have a putt on the last hole to do that."

Webb was at 12-under 201, three strokes ahead of Maria Hjorth and Laura Diaz, who is trying to become the first player in three years to make her first tour victory a major.

Laura Davies recovered from double bogey on No. 14 to finish at 70 and was four strokes back, still in contention to pick up a title that would put the English star into the Hall of Fame.

"I've got to shoot really low (today), and if I do, I can win," Davies said. "That's all you can ask for in a golf tournament."

Webb had it easy three weeks ago when she repeated as U.S. Women's Open champion, leading by five after 54 holes and cruising to a seven-stroke victory.

Five players are within five strokes this time, and Webb will have the added pressure of trying to become the youngest woman to win all four majors. Mickey Wright was 27 when she completed the Grand Slam in 1962.

Only three others have won the LPGA's career slam -- Louise Suggs, Pat Bradley and Juli Inkster, who picked up the final piece at DuPont Country Club in 1999.

Tiger Woods was the youngest to win all four men's majors, completing it at St. Andrews last year at 24.

"It's in the back of my mind," Webb said. "The main thing is to win the tournament."

Webb has won four of the past seven majors (1999 du Maurier, 2000 Nabisco Championship, 2000-01 U.S. Women's Open) and has won 14 of 22 tournaments when she took a lead into the final round, including 3-0 in the majors.

"Looks like we're in trouble," said Wendy Ward, who shot 71 and joined Davies at 205. "Par is your buddy out there, but right now we're going to need birdies to catch her."

Hjorth and Diaz each finished strong to shoot 5-under 66. Diaz had a string of four birdies on the back nine, none longer than 10 feet, and Hjorth made five birdies over the final 10 holes and will play with Webb in the final pairing.

"At least there's still a chance," Hjorth said.

Webb would have preferred to turn another major into a runaway -- she has won her past three majors by a combined 23 strokes.

Instead, she found herself clinging to a one-stroke lead early on the back nine until Davies caught a wicked lie in the rough on No. 14, shanked a chip and took double bogey.

Playing two groups behind, Webb made a hard-breaking par putt from 8 feet on No. 13, then holed a 20-footer for birdie on 14 to restore her three-stroke lead.

"That was a big momentum putt there," Webb said of her par on the 13th. "Not necessarily because I had a lot of forward momentum, but it kept me in the lead at that stage."

Webb added another birdie on No. 16, coming up short of the green on the par 5, chipping to 8 feet and making the putt.

Annika Sorenstam, whose five victories this year include a major and the first 59 in women's golf, couldn't get her putter going and wound up with 71, seven strokes back.

Michele Redman made an early charge with three straight birdies to get to within two strokes. But she hit into the bunker on the par-3 fifth and three-putted from 15 feet for double bogey, then took another double bogey on No. 8, another par 3.

Webb wasn't immune to mistakes, either. She stretched her lead to four strokes early in the round until running into problems gauging the wind. She twice came up short of greens, and both 6-foot par putts lipped out. Webb managed a smile after both bogeys, but much of the day was a grind.

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