Thu, Jul 03, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Webb happy to be out of limelight

BIDING HER TIME Previous US Open winner Karrie Webb is hoping that she will be the one making the headlines on Sunday by beating Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie

AP , NORTH PLAINS, OREGON

Karrie Webb is fine with all the attention given to one-time rival Annika Sorenstam and 13-year-old phenom Michelle Wie as the US Women's Open gets underway this week.

Webb just hopes the focus turns to her Sunday.

"It doesn't particularly offend me if I'm not in the paper now," she said. "As long as I'm in the paper on Monday morning holding up the trophy, then I'll be very happy."

Webb, a two-time Open winner, is hoping her game will come together at just the right time to steal the spotlight from Wie and Sorenstam in the Women's Open, which starts today on the Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

Sorenstam, a two-time winner of the Open, became the first woman in 58 years to play in a PGA Tour when she appeared in The Colonial in May.

And Wie has made a splash not only because of her age, but because of her 300-yard drives. Two weeks ago, she became the youngest player to win a USGA adult title at the US Women's Amateur Public Links.

Webb knows a little about attention herself.

The 28-year-old Australian won the 2000 Women's Open at the Merit Club near Chicago by five shots, then added an eight-stroke victory in 2001 at Pine Needles.

Last year at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas, Webb was vying for an unprecedented third straight Open title -- and even boasted how she felt great going into the event -- but then failed to make the cut.

Juli Inkster won with one of the best closing rounds in Women's Open history, a 4-under 66 for a two-stroke victory over Sorenstam.

"I think that I tried to put it in the back of my mind, but I obviously knew what it meant if I had won last year," Webb said Tuesday.

Webb played nine holes of the Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge earlier in the day after playing all 18 on Monday.

The course, nestled in rural farmland west or Portland, was also the site of the Open in 1997, when Alison Nicholas edged emotional favorite Nancy Lopez, whose career remains devoid of the most cherished prize in women's golf.

Webb finished fourth in 1997.

Back then, Sorenstam was in the same position Webb was in last year: The 32-year-old Swede had won the Open in 1995 and `96.

Sorenstam missed the cut, too.

"I had a chance for a three-peat, which nobody else had done," Sorenstam said. "I think coming here I just couldn't handle the pressure."

Webb admitted she didn't remember much about the Witch Hollow course, which will play to a par 71 and up to 6,550 yards, making it the longest course in the Open's history. The purse is US$3.1 million.

"Actually, it's quite unusual," she said. "I usually remember -- especially US Open courses, I remember a lot of the holes."

Webb has won six major golf championships and 22 other LPGA tournaments since turning pro in 1994. But she has admittedly struggled this season, still seeking her first LPGA Tour victory. She did win the LPGA Skins Game in Wailea, Hawaii, at the start of the year.

"What I've learned throughout this year is how close excellent and good and pretty good is," she said.

Webb said she's been playing pretty well, but hasn't been able to string together the four good days needed for a victory -- and those four good days are essential for a major.

This week, she hopes she finally puts it together, and steals a little thunder from Sorenstam and Wie.

"I've played great in a major and not won," she said. "It's a matter of timing, it's a matter of luck and it's a matter of playing well."

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