Karrie Webb Wins Women's Open

Monday, July 24th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GURNEE, Ill. (AP) — With the U.S. Women's Open trophy at her side and the Hall of Fame in her future, Karrie Webb has everything she's ever wanted.

The Australian star has accomplished her grandest career goals at just 25, only 4 1/2 years into her career. And yet, now that she's achieved it all, there's so much more to do.

``Holding up trophies like that, that's got to keep you motivated. Winning golf tournaments is, to me, what I'm out there to do,'' she said Sunday after winning the biggest one of them all, the Women's Open.

``There's still a lot more to achieve, and I think I can only get better and improve my game.''

Those words are sure to terrify other LPGA Tour players — just as they did the players across the Atlantic Ocean when Tiger Woods said them after winning the British Open.

Much as the comparisons might annoy her, Woods might be the only player to whom Webb can be matched now. Despite closing with a 1-over 73 on Sunday, she finished at 6-under 282 to win the Open by five strokes and has now won three of the last four majors — just as Woods has.

At 24, Woods was the youngest player to win the career Grand Slam. Webb needs only the LPGA Championship to complete hers, and has until 2009 — yes, 2009 — to win it to be the youngest woman to win the modern-day slam.

``I think it's kind of cool to be compared to Tiger Woods, especially after what he's been doing,'' said Meg Mallon, who tied for second with Cristie Kerr at 1-under 287.

``Karrie has been fabulous,'' Mallon said. ``I hope you all give her the credit she deserves. Sometimes when a player makes it look as easy as she does, it's hard to appreciate how great she is. She's only 25 years old. She has not even gotten mature yet. She's not going to go away for a long time.''

Certainly not before 2005. Though Webb's victory — her fifth LPGA Tour victory and sixth worldwide title of the year — gave her the points she needs for the Hall of Fame, she has to play 10 years on the LPGA Tour before she can be inducted.

That won't be until after the 2005 season — more than five years away.

``Every year as I look back at what I've achieved, I just shake my head and can't believe I've done so much so soon,'' Webb said. ``The fact I've added two more notches on the belt and I'm not yet 26, it's really hard to believe I've done this already.''

Not with the way Webb plays it's not. Like Woods, she plays with a single-minded determination that is simply awesome. Of, if you're her opponent, downright scary.

On Sunday, she blew her four-stroke lead with a double bogey on the par-3 No. 7 after putting her tee shot in the water. Then, on the next hole, she put her drive in the rough, clipped a tree on her second shot and dropped back into the rough, yet still managed to make par.

When she saw Mallon was going to need three putts on the 10th, she rammed her 10-footer home for birdie and the rout was on. She held steady for the next seven holes while her challengers fell off one by one.

Mallon was done in by bogeys on three straight holes. Mi Hyun Kim, one stroke down at one point, double-bogeyed the 16th and finished tied with Rosie Jones at even-par 288.

``That's Karrie,'' Mallon said. ``When she smells blood, she's like an animal.''

It speaks volumes about Webb's talent that she was able to win the LPGA Tour's most prestigious event on a day when she didn't play her best. Even more intimidating is her admission afterward that she arrived at the tournament feeling so insecure she was just hoping to make the cut.

``I really didn't feel like my game was in good enough shape to win the U.S. Open,'' she said. ``On Monday afternoon, I thought if I could just make the cut and have a decent tournament, that was as much as I could expect. The only thing that I knew was that it was windy, and I could play my way into a swing.

``And that's what happened.''

Webb won $500,000 for the victory, the largest prize ever in women's golf. She also gets a $250,000 bonus for the Nabisco Grand Slam Challenge for winning two majors. She's earned $1.486 million this year and needs just $106,324 to break the LPGA single-season earnings record, which she set last year.

But the money isn't what drives her, Webb said. It's the thrill of winning, the feel of grasping that trophy and lifting it skyward.

There's a player in Scotland right now who knows exactly what she means.

``There's a sense of fate in it all,'' Kerr said. ``When people tee it up with Tiger, they're playing for second. When Karrie plays well, we kind of all feel like that.''