Webb surges ahead in the Nabisco Championship

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The Independent Online

The Karrie and Aree show is playing extraordinarily well at the Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, California, reducing everyone else to bit roles as the present and future of the LPGA Tour collide.

Karrie Webb pulled away from the field with a 5-under 67 Saturday for an eight-stroke lead over an aching Dottie Pepper in pursuit of the LPGA's first major of the year.

"Am I conscious? I don't feel like it out there," Webb said, smiling.

Aree Wongluekiet, the 13-year-old sensation from Thailand, shot a bogey-free 68 - the second-lowest round ever by an amateur in the Nabisco. She's tied for third with '98 Nabisco champion Pat Hurst (70) and Chris Johnson (73) at 2-under 214.

Can Aree catch Webb?

"I'll try, but probably not," she said.

The rest of the field knows the feeling.

"We're playing for second place," Hurst said.

Webb is a dominant frontrunner. Since 1996, the Australian has led 16 times going into the final round and won nine tournaments.

"If the people behind you aren't doing anything, sometimes it's easy to bog down and just play the same sort of golf that they're playing," she said, "but I tried to still play aggressively and shoot as low as I could."

Webb had six birdies and one bogey in her 67, the same score she had in Thursday's first round. Her 12-under 204 total was one off the 54-hole record of 203 set by Amy Alcott in '88 and equaled by Pepper last year.

"It's probably the best I've hit it," Webb said.

Webb's only glitch was bogeying the 380-yard 4th. She missed the fairway to the right and chipped to 10 feet, but missed the putt. Otherwise, four of her six birdies came on par-4s.

"I did realise that when Dottie and Chris started making some bogeys on the back nine that no one else had really done anything, so it just made it easier to fire at the pin," she said. "I was just trying to increase my lead as much as I could."

Pepper, the defending champion, shot a 72 for the second straight day, with three bogeys on the back nine. She played in pain because of back spasms that occurred as a result of her left foot slipping out from under her on wet grass at the practice range.

"My back is just fired up right now," said Pepper, who required treatment afterward. "I had a minimal amount of feeling from the belt down. On the first tee, I didn't know if I'd make it to the first green. To shoot even-par is pretty substantial."

Webb, 25, said she's excited to play Sunday's final round with Wongluekiet (pronounced Wahn-gloo-KEE-it).

"When I was 13, I still had a 15-handicap, so I definitely wouldn't have been messing around playing on the LPGA," she said. "I just can't imagine what's going through her mind right now at 13 years old in the last group of a major."

Wongluekiet has a new goal after achieving her first goal of making the cut.

"The best ever finish by an amateur is fourth, so I'll try and beat that," she said, "but not worry too much about it, just go out there and try and play my game."

Wongluekiet and her twin sister, Naree, who missed the cut, are the second-youngest ever to play in an LPGA tournament. Aree had four birdies, including one on the par-5, 508-yard (464-meter) 9th hole.

Asked if she was ever in danger of making a bogey, Wongluekiet cracked up the media by saying, "Every single hole. There's always a possibility."

The closest she came was on the par-4, 403-yard 13th hole. Her drive went right and landed behind some trees. She punched out of the rough about 75 yards to the fairway, then pitched to 12 feet past the hole and made the par putt.

"She's a great player, all around," said Scotland's Janice Moodie, Wongluekiet's playing partner. "She didn't miss a beat."

Michele Redman, Wendy Doolan of Australia and Lorie Kane of Canada were tied for fourth at 1-under 215. Moodie and Cathy Johnston-Forbes shared fifth at par-216.

Divots

The lowest round ever by an amateur in the Nabisco was a 66 by Caroline Keggi in the third round of the '88 tournament. Keggi shot 69 on the final day and wound up fourth. ... The last time Webb failed to win after taking a lead into the final 18 holes was last week in Phoenix. She led by two strokes at the start and shot 70 to finish second to Charlotta Sorenstam. ... Annika Sorenstam was at 5-over 221 after making Friday's cut by one stroke. ... Judy Rankin, whose record of 25 top-10 finishes in 1977 still stands, was nominated for the LPGA Hall of Fame by the tour's veteran's committee. She needs 75 percent of the vote by the tour's tournament division when it meets May 2 in Austin, Texas, to gain admittance.

Scores from the third round of the $1.25 million 2000 Nabisco Championship, played on the 6,520-yard par-72 Dinah Shore course at Mission Hills Country Club in Ranco Mirage, California (a) denotes amateur:

Karrie Webb 67-70-67-204 Dottie Pepper 68-72-72-212 (a) Aree Song Wongluekiet 75-71-68-214 Pat Hurst 72-72-70-214 Chris Johnson 73-68-73-214 Michele Redman 73-73-69-215 Wendy Doolan 73-73-69-215 Lorie Kane 71-71-73-215 Janice Moodie 74-72-70-216 Cathy Johnston-Forbes 74-71-71-216 Kim Saiki 72-77-68-217 Barb Mucha 77-71-70-218 Meg Mallon 75-70-73-218 Carin Koch 79-70-70-219 Fumiko Muraguchi 78-71-70-219 Nancy Scranton 78-70-71-219 Helen Dobson 73-74-72-219 Rosie Jones 74-71-74-219 Alison Nicholas 71-74-74-219 Charlotta Sorenstam 75-75-70-220 Brandie Burton 74-75-71-220 Kristi Albers 77-71-72-220 Juli Inkster 76-71-73-220 Nanci Bowen 75-72-73-220 Barb Whitehead 70-76-74-220 Beth Daniel 70-75-75-220

Selected Others

Kelly Robbins 79-69-73-221 Annika Sorenstam 76-72-73-221 Sherri Steinhauer 73-71-77-221 Se Ri Pak 73-71-77-221 Trish Johnson 72-71-78-221 Patty Sheehan 74-75-73-222 Catriona Matthew 72-77-73-222 Rachel Hetherington 69-78-75-222 Nancy Lopez 78-72-73-223 Dawn Coe-Jones 76-72-75-223 Sherri Turner 77-70-76-223 Laura Davies 71-74-78-223 Tammie Green 74-76-74-224 Akiko Fukushima 74-76-74-224 Liselotte Neumann 75-74-75-224 Catrin Nilsmark 77-71-76-224 Jane Geddes 74-72-78-224 Tina Barrett 73-72-79-224 Kathryn Marshall 77-74-74-225 Cindy McCurdy 75-74-76-225 Becky Iverson 75-74-76-225 Helen Alfredsson 72-77-77-226

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