Webb takes 5-stroke lead in Longs Drugs Challenge

Sunday, September 24th 2006, 2:13 pm
By: News On 6

DANVILLE, Calif. (AP) _ Karrie Webb took full control in the Longs Drugs Challenge on Saturday, taming the hilly Blackhawk Country Club course with a bogey-free 6-under 66 that pushed her lead to five strokes with a round to play.

Webb birdied the final three holes on the Lakeside course to finish at 13-under 203 and send a message to her LPGA Tour rivals that the seven-time major champion from Australia is back at the top of her game.

``I just felt very at ease with my golf swing,'' said Webb, tied for the tour victory lead this season with three.

If the wind stays down on the hill-lined course, more low scores could come.

``If you have no wind, someone could shoot really low. So, I think I still have to go out there and play the way I've played this week and be aggressive on the holes that you can,'' Webb said.

Webb's finish really distanced her from the field.

On the par-3 16th, she made a a 25-foot putt. Her sand wedge on No. 17 stopped 5 feet from the hole and another wedge on No. 18 stuck within 10 feet _ both opportunities she seized.

Webb finished at 13-under 203, five strokes ahead of 18-year-old Morgan Pressel (69) and Sweden's Maria Hjorth (70).

Webb began the day tied for the lead with Jeong Jang at 7 under. But as Jang sputtered, Webb's clean approach shots and steady putter kept her out of trouble.

Jang shot a 74 to drop eight strokes back at 5 under.

Annika Sorenstam, the tour's gold standard, would have put more heat on Webb heading into the final round had it not been for a disastrous play at No. 5, a short par-5 that she double-bogeyed. Still, Sorenstam had five birdies on the day and her 69 left her somewhat in the hunt at 7 under.

Pressel's scoring prowess was impressive throughout the third round. She had seven birdies and two bogeys through 17 holes, only to give back two strokes on the closing hole.

Pressel's tee shot at No. 18 found the fairway bunker. She tried to take the ball out and over a sizable green-guarding lake, but caught her shot heavy and the ball splashed in the lake well short of the green. Pressel grasped her cap and hung her head, knowing an even lower round had escaped her.

``It's just an intimidating shot,'' Pressel said of the closing-hole blunder. ``I was shaking a little bit over that shot.''

Webb did some quick math after her round, and liked her odds as she looked for her fourth title of the year.

``If I shot 3 under tomorrow, someone has to, I don't want to work it out, but it would have to be a pretty low round,'' Webb said.