Golf: Webb leaves the rest spinning

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The Independent Online
As Far as the Weetabix Women's British Open is concerned, Karrie Webb is a serial killer. The 22-year-old Australian murdered her rivals yesterday, not to mention the famous Old Course here, with a 63, a stroke outside the lowest score ever recorded by a woman.

Nothing short of a bushfire is going to prevent Webb from winning the pounds 82,500 first prize in the final round today. When she won the British Open at Woburn in 1995 she was in her first full season as a professional. Itdidn't stop her from destroying the field, winning by six strokes with a 14-under-par aggregate.

After two rounds at Sunningdale, Webb was nine under and led by three from Trish Johnson and Kathryn Marshall. Nobody, bar the 37-year-old American Rosie Jones, could live with Webb and even then, Jones was more a distant neighbour than a fellow traveller. During her round of 66 Jones looked at the leaderboard and thought to herself: "You're going to have to make a birdie soon or she's going to lap you."

Webb compiled six birdies and two eagles and at 18 under par for the tournament she is eight strokes in front of Jones with the rest not even on the horizon. Webb drove into trees on the right at the first hole but managed to save par. As par is a five this represented a missed opportunity. However, at the second, Webb's drive hit the road that bisects the fairway, giving her ball extra impetus and she capitalised with an eagle three.

In the entire championship she has dropped only two shots, both at the par-three 13th. Yesterday, after reeling off four birdies in a row, she missed the green at the 13th and took four. That might have dented the confidence of a lesser player. Webb's response was to eagle the 14th.

The brief but spectacular career of Webb is symptomatic of one of the underlying problems of the women's European tour. After she won the British Open in her rookie year, she joined the US tour and topped the money list with over $1m, the first time that barrier had been passed in women's golf in a single season.

The Weetabix is huge in Europe (the prize fund is pounds 525,000) but it's still only a breakfast stopover for the likes of Webb. Yesterday, more than 15,000 fans descended on Sunningdale and the temperature was hot to boiling but everything on the European tour is not sunny side up.

A few months ago, Gill Wilson, the deputy chief executive, marched out of the meeting telling the players to "get stuffed". They were dissatisfied at what they perceived as lack of progress. Wilson, one of the pioneers of the tour, has since re-joined as a consultant.

"You can never satisfy all of the people all of the time," Terry Coates, the chief executive said. "The tour used to have more events but they were moderate affairs with small prize money. Sponsors today want top- class fields, a good venue, media coverage and corporate hospitality. We are talking to a number of backers. We thought we had one lined up and the next thing I read is that they had switched to volleyball."

Laura Davies who, like Webb, spends most of her time in America, attracted a huge gallery yesterday in a round of 69 which left her at level par. "The crowds are fantastic," she said. "I played in an event in America recently which had a crowd of 5,000 and no more than five of them were for me."

Davies is 100-1 with the bookies to win today; Webb is 1-9. "How do you stop Karrie Webb?", Lisa Hackney joint third, was asked. "Where is she eating?" Hackney replied.

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