Webb Takes Aim on Another Major

Thursday, June 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Karrie Webb, the No. 1 player in women's golf and the only one capable of winning a Grand Slam this year, has set rather modest goals heading into the LPGA Tour's second major.

First, she wants to make the cut in the LPGA Championship.

``I've never been in contention at this tournament before,'' Webb said ``I've always had a good weekend, but never gotten off to a good start on Thursday and Friday. I try not to put too much pressure on myself, because I've never really played that well here.''

DuPont Country Club is an exception.

Just about everywhere else Webb goes, she either wins or comes awfully close. Already this year, the 25-year-old Australian has won five times worldwide, finished second twice and has only been out of the top 10 on one occasion.

If those numbers sound familiar, they should. Tiger Woods has won just as often and been close just as much.

And while Woods won the U.S. Open by a record 15 strokes on Sunday, keep in mind that Webb won the LPGA's first major — the Nabisco Championship — by a record 10 strokes in March.

``I think what Karrie has done on our side of the tour is just as good as what Tiger has done on their side of the tour, and I don't think Karrie has gotten the respect or the notoriety that she deserves,'' Juli Inkster said.

The parallel in the careers of Woods and Webb is amazing. As a rookie, Webb became the first woman to earn over $1 million. That was overshadowed by Woods turning pro and winning twice to qualify for the Tour Championship.

Last year, she shattered the LPGA scoring record and won six times. Woods shattered the PGA scoring record and won eight times.

Webb can't control the attention she gets, only her golf.

Still, she has a chance to win the Grand Slam, which is something not even Woods can accomplish this year.

No one has ever won all four major championships in the same season, and Webb is the only player on any tour who can still even dream about it.

``It would be great, and very important to me if I won this week,'' Webb said. ``But it's only Wednesday, and I've got a long road ahead of me before I even have a chance to hold that trophy on Sunday.''

Webb also won the du Maurier Classic in August, so a victory this week would make her the first player since Pat Bradley in 1985-86 to win three straight majors. Ben Hogan in 1953 was the last male to win three straight.

``Some have accepted that she's going to win a lot,'' Nancy Lopez said. ``I don't think they sit back and say, `Well, Karrie is going to win this week.' But they know who they are going to have to beat if they're going to win.''

Webb is the favorite this week because, like Woods, she is the favorite every week. And just like on the PGA Tour, some of her peers aren't ashamed to admit it.

``If I was a betting person, I would put my money on Karrie every week. I'd be very rich right now,'' said Inkster, whose victory last year in the LPGA Championship made her only the second woman to complete the modern career Grand Slam.

Speaking of money, there's more at stake for Webb than the $210,000 to this week's winner. Thanks to a bonus pool established by Nabisco, she can earn an additional $250,000 by winning her second major.

That goes up to $1 million if she wins the U.S. Open next month, and $2.5 million — more than Webb won all of last year — if she wins all four.

Unlike the PGA Tour, at least Webb has some competition.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Annika Sorenstam, who lost to Webb in a playoff in Hawaii earlier this year, repaid the favor by beating Webb with an eagle on the first playoff in the Evian Masters last week in France.

It was the Swede's third victory this year, a sign that she may be ready to try to reclaim her No. 1 ranking.

``Karrie right now is the No. 1 player, and when you beat somebody like that, it gives you more confidence,'' Sorenstam said. ``But also, it helps knowing your game is good enough to know that you can beat her. That means a lot.''