Fearless Webb spreadeagles field again

Tim Glover watches a remarkable Australian reduce her rivals to also-rans
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It was obviously the shades that did it. When the Weetabix Women's British Open was played in near meltdown temperatures over the first three days, Karrie Webb was on course to break every record in the book.

The 22-year-old from Ayr in Queensland, disguising her concentration behind all enveloping sunglasses with the added insurance of a sun visor, was in her element. There was no sign of fallibility as she applied a scorched earth policy to Sunningdale's splendid Old Course with a flock of birdies and enough eagles to gladden the heart of an ornithologist.

Yesterday the weather turned to such a degree that Webb might have thought she was playing in Ayr in Ayrshire. Off came the shades, up went the umbrellas and, for the first time, Webb looked as if she might, just might lose her grip. She didn't, of course, and duly won Europe's richest prize by eight strokes following a more modest 71.

The 22-year-old Australian brought the Old Course to its knees with a 65 in the first round and then put her foot on its neck with a 63 in the third.

Going into the final round Webb was so far in front she was in danger of lapping the field. What sets her apart from the great majority of her contemporaries is that she is extremely long off the tee and is also a fearless putter. The idea of lagging up is virtually alien to her nature. If she knocks it four feet past the hole it does not bother her. She is totally confident of getting the one back.

But if her form on Saturday was phenomenal, she relented a little yesterday and even gave her playing partner, the veteran gum-chewing American Rosie Jones cause to blow the odd bubble.

Webb, who had just two bogeys in the first three rounds, had three over the first nine holes, going to the turn in 38 to Jones' 35. The lead had been reduced to five strokes, but that was as close as it got.

Jones' bubble burst with a bogey at the 10th and Webb, who had led by eight, restored the status quo with three birdies on the back nine to come home in style in 33.

When she took the British Open at Woburn two years ago, in her first full year as a professional, she spreadeagled the field with an aggregate of 14 under par and won by seven shots. This time she finished 19 under, establishing a record 72-hole total for the championship. Webb, who won pounds 82,500, said: "I'm over the moon. It is such a special tournament for me, being the first one that I ever won."

Jones, with a 20-foot putt at the last for a birdie, beat Annika Sorenstam by a stroke in the contest for second place and returned to Atlanta richer by pounds 52,000.

Next year the British Open moves to Royal Lytham and only a fool would bet against Webb achieving the unthinkable - devouring a third Weetabix.

Meanwhile, the tour moves to Stockholm for the Compaq Open but without Laura Davies who returns to the American tour.

The following week the players should have been at Hanbury Manor in Hertfordshire for the European Open, but that is one of a number of events that have disappeared off the original schedule because of the lack of a sponsor.

Helen Wadsworth, something of a clothes horse on the tour, epitomises the modern woman professional although they could do with a few more like her. But she also voices the impatience of the members at the slow pace of real growth.

"What can't be emphasised enough," said Wadsworth, who lists her hobbies as skiing, fashion, rugby league, yoga and racing, "is that we have a good product. I know the competition for sponsors is keen but there's no way we should be overtaken by the seniors tour. What would you rather watch? Talented and pretty girls or a bunch of men over the age of 50?"

Well, if you're going to put it like that...

WEETABIX WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN (Sunningdale) Final round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 269 K Webb (Aus) 65 70 63 71 (pounds 82,500). 277 R Jones (US) 70 70 66 71 (pounds 52,000). 278 A Sorenstam (Swe) 72 70 69 67 (pounds 36,750). 280 B Burton (US) 73 69 71 67 (pounds 27,000). 281 C Matthew 70 70 70 71; L Hackney 74 69 67 71 (pounds 20,000 each). 282 T Barrett (US) 70 72 70 70; W Doolan (Aus) 74 70 68 70. 283 C Johnson (US) 71 71 73 68. 284 C Sorenstam (Swe) 71 70 72 71; B King (US) 71 72 68 73. 285 M Hirase (Japan) 76 65 74 70; J Lidback (Per) 71 74 70 70; L Neumann (Swe) 68 75 71 71; J Inkster (US) 69 71 73 72; B Mucha (US) 72 67 73 73; K Marshall 70 68 73 74; H Dobson 73 69 69 74. 286 C Hj Koch (Swe) 76 71 71 68; L Lambert (Aus) 70 73 73 70; A Dibos (Per) 71 72 70 73; C Dibnah (Aus) 72 71 70 73. 287 R Hetherington (Aus) 75 70 71 71; L Davies 74 73 69 71; K Tschetter (US) 73 70 72 72. 288 E Klein (US) 69 74 70 75. 289 B Whitehead (US) 71 74 77 67; S Farron (NZ) 72 75 75 67; J Morley 75 69 76 69; H Alfredsson (Swe) 69 76 72 72; L Brooky (NZ) 72 73 72 72; J Moodie 74 71 71 73. 290 K Lunn (Aus) 74 71 75 70; P Hurst (US) 76 72 70 72; *S Cavalleri (It) 70 73 73 74. 291 S Maynor 72 74 74 71. 292 S Strudwick 72 74 74 72; D Richard (US) 71 72 75 74; G Graham (Can) 73 73 71 75. *denotes amateur

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