Webb wins US Open

Karrie Webb had no idea when she teed off today how hard it would be to claim the U.S. Women's Open trophy sitting not 10 feet away.

Karrie Webb had no idea when she teed off today how hard it would be to claim the U.S. Women's Open trophy sitting not 10 feet away.

She dunked a tee shot in the water and blew a four-stroke lead before collecting herself, playing the back nine with a steely resolve that buried her challengers and gave her the trophy she's wanted so badly.

After birdieing the 18th hole, Webb hugged Meg Mallon, her playing partner, and Evan Minster, her caddie. She finished at 6-under 282, five strokes ahead of everyone else.

The world's No. 1 golfer has won three of the last four major championships. She won the du Maurier Classic last year and the Nabisco Championship earlier this season, and needs only the LPGA Championship to complete the career Grand Slam.

It seemed only fitting that Webb won this weekend. Just as Tiger Woods has dominated the PGA Tour, Webb has been his equal on the LPGA Tour, winning 21 times in 4 1/2 years. Today, just about 20 minutes before she teed off, Woods completed his career Grand Slam with a record-setting victory at the British Open.

"You kind of feel like there's a sense of fate in it all," said Cristie Kerr, who finished tied with Mallon for second at 1-under 287. "When people tee it up with Tiger, they're playing for second. When Karrie plays well, we kind of all feel like that."

Even when Webb doesn't play her best, she makes it very, very hard to beat her. She won by five strokes despite shooting a 1-over-par-73, her worst score of the week.

She looked so vulnerable after her tee shot on the par-3 7th bounced into the water, dropping her into a tie with Mallon who birdied No. 9. But Mallon bogeyed three straight holes on the back nine. Mi Hyun Kim came within a shot, but she, too, fell off. She went into the water on the 16th hole and missed her bogey putt, finishing tied with Rosie Jones at even-par 288.

Like all champions do, Webb recovered and finished strong, making birdies on 10 and 18. As she walked up the 18th fairway after putting her ball on the green, she grinned and slapped hands with Minster.

She wins dlrs 500,000, the largest prize ever in women's golf. She also gets a dlrs 250,000 bonus for the Nabisco Grand Slam Challenge. She's earned dlrs 1.486 million this year and needs just dlrs 106,324 to break the LPGA single-season earnings record, which she set last year.

The victory also gives Webb the points she needs to qualify for the Hall of Fame. With 27 points, three major championship titles, two Vare trophies for lowest scoring average and one player of the year award, all she needs now are 10 years on the LPGA Tour. She will be eligible for induction after the 2005 season.

Webb said this week that this was the one tournament she's always wanted to win, her nerves showed early on. On the first hole, her drive strayed just a little to the right, landing in the first cut of rough. No big deal - except that she only missed four fairways all day Saturday.

Her putting stroke, so sharp on Saturday, was a little off, too. On the first hole, she had a 12-foot birdie putt that rolled along the edge of the cup - and kept going, stopping two feet past the hole.

Her worst hole of the whole week came on the No. 7, when her tee shot hit the small bank on the front left side of the green and bounced into the water. She hit again from the drop area, and this shot landed about 15 feet from the hole. Her par putt went 1 1/2 feet by the hole, leaving her with a double-bogey and cutting her lead to one.

But Webb kept fighting. Coming out of the rough on No. 8, she clipped a tree and dropped back into the rough. This is no ordinary rough, either. It's so thick and heavy it almost feels like the artificial turf some people have in their patios.

Webb had little choice but to lay up 75 yards short of the green, but she still managed to put her next shot six feet from the pin and made the par putt, drawing roars from the crowd.

Final-round scores from the $2.75 million US Women's Open at Merit Club (players US unless stated, a-amateur): 282 Karrie Webb (Australia) 69 72 68 73 287 Cristie Kerr 72 71 74 70, Meg Mallon 68 72 73 74 288 Mi Hyun Kim (South Korea) 74 72 70 72, Rosie Jones 73 71 72 72 289 Kelli Kuehne 71 74 73 71, Grace Park 74 72 73 70 290 Beth Daniel 71 74 72 73 291 Kelly Robbins 74 73 71 73, Annika Sorenstam (Sweden) 73 75 73 70, Laura Davies (Britain) 73 71 72 75 292 Pat Hurst 73 72 72 75, Jennifer Rosales 75 75 69 73, Dorothy Delasin 76 68 72 76 293 Pak Se Ri (South Korea) 74 75 75 69, Kellee Booth 70 78 75 70 294 Janice Moodie (Britain) 73 77 75 69, Shani Waugh (Australia) 69 75 73 77, Lorie Kane (Canada) 71 74 72 77, Kathryn Marshall (Britain) 72 72 77 73 295 Jackie Gallagher-Smith 71 77 73 74, Wendy Doolan (Australia) 77 69 74 75 297 Donna Andrews 73 75 79 70, Kristi Albers 71 77 73 76, Juli Inkster 70 74 73 80, Michele Redman 74 74 73 76 298 Joanne Morley (Britain) 73 72 74 79, A.J. Eathorne (Canada) 73 77 73 75, Charlotta Sorenstam (Sweden) 75 74 76 73, Silvia Cavalleri (Italy) 72 73 75 78 299 Tina Barrett 72 78 75 74, Jenny Lidback (Peru) 73 74 76 76, Kate Golden 75 72 76 76, Emilee Klein 77 72 75 75, Sophie Gustafson (Sweden) 72 78 71 78, Carin Koch (Sweden) 75 73 73 78, Hiromi Kobayashi (Japan) 77 72 70 80, Danielle Ammaccapane 72 73 79 75, Fiona Pike (Australia) 72 74 77 76 300 Mary Beth Zimmerman 77 72 75 76, Val Skinner 74 76 75 75, Michelle Ellis 76 74 81 69, a-Naree Song Wongluekiet (Thailand) 74 76 73 77 301 Catriona Matthew (Britain) 74 75 78 74, Jill McGill 73 77 77 74 302 Nancy Lopez 76 74 77 75, Leta Lindley 73 77 81 71, Betsy King 71 70 82 79, Jan Stephenson 73 74 77 78, Nancy Scranton 80 70 78 74, Sara Sanders 72 78 73 79, Jae Jean Ro 74 76 74 78 304 Jean Zedlitz 73 76 77 78 305 Marisa Baena 73 76 78 78, Anna Macosko 73 76 77 79 306 a-Hilary Homeyer 73 75 80 78 307 Carri Wood 73 77 78 79 308 Barb Mucha 74 75 77 82 310 Pearl Sinn 74 76 77 83 311 Michelle McGann 77 73 79 82

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