Karrie Webb, the former world No 1 from north Queensland, proved she was back in touch with her old, implacable, competitive self when she won the Evian Masters by a single shot from Michelle Wie, the 16-year phenomenon from Hawaii, and Laura Davies, the 42-year-old grande dame of British golf.
It was compelling stuff that more than matched the magni- ficent surroundings in the Haute-Savoie, high above Lake Geneva, and Webb had to call on all her resources to win Europe's richest event, with a first prize of £250,000, for the first time. The 31-year old Australian, who trailed Wie by two shots with seven holes to play, birdied three of them for a round of 68, four under par, and a total of 272 that kept Wie, who also had a 68, waiting for her inevitable maiden victory as a professional.
Davies, who has had a miserable season and not won for 28 months, kept the pressure on with a 67 and was in with a chance until the very end, when her eagle putt at the 18th - after a splendid seven-iron to 12 feet - shaved the hole. She reckoned that it was her best effort since her last victory - in Rochester, New York, in 2001 - and even hit some shots that were reminiscent of her cavalier heyday when she was ranked the world No 1.
Her finest shot came at the 16th, a short par-four where even the big boomers lay up. Davies looked to be in trouble when she duffed her five-iron tee shot 80 yards and was in no position to see the green perched on its hill beyond trees, scrub and stray spectators. Her caddie guessed she had 155 yards to the pin and she launched herself at the ball with all her might with a nine-iron. It ended 12 feet away but, sadly, the putt did not go in.
Wie, who does not hold back herself and seemed unrestricted by the stiff neck she woke up with, was duly impressed. "Laura hit so many spectacular shots. I was blown out of my mind. She and Karrie are awesome players. I learned so much. I couldn't have tried harder and I hit every shot the best I could. I'm getting very close [to winning] but it's not as easy as it seems."
Out in 33 with the help of an eagle three at the 482-yard ninth, where she hit a seven-iron to 35 feet, Wie was tied with Webb at 14 under par, and moved into the lead with a birdie three at the 11th, where Webb three-putted. Was this to be the seismic shift in women's golf, the beginning of a winning Wie era?
But Webb, who has been working hard on the mental side of her game as well as the physical side, was not ready to concede just yet. "I told myself to get in there and start trusting myself a little bit more, just believe in myself," she said.
And it worked. She birdied the 12th to close the gap to one shot, Wie dropped a shot at the 13th via two bunkers to find herself level, on 14 under par, with Webb and Davies, who had also birdied the 12th. Webb then pulled ahead again with a 15-foot putt for a birdie two at the 14th and she gave herself a relieving two-shot cushion with another two at the 17th. After sinking that 20-footer, she bent her knees and pumped her fist as the ball disappeared, a rare indication of strain and emotion.
Webb took the five she could afford at the last, laying up with her second shot, before accepting the trophy from the former Olympic skiing champion Jean-Claude Killy. "I'm very pleased and proud," she said.Reuse content