Webb's day of kisses and champagne

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Golf

RICHARD EDMONDSON

reports from Woburn

For someone who was meant to crumble as inevitably as an apartment block in an earthquake, there was precious little wavering from Karrie Webb here yesterday. The 20-year-old Australian stood firm as the relative greybeards around her fell away in the final round of the Women's British Open, recording a 70 for a six-stroke victory.

If her play was mature, Webb's shortage of years was demonstrated in a victory speech that was choked with emotion. If any trophy hunter had managed to collect the winner's shirt it would have been worth wringing out, as Webb was drenched with champagne by friends on the final green.

The celebrations were conducted mainly with Todd Haller, Webb's fiance and caddie, who has rewarded his partner with a kiss each time she has made a birdie this week. The prurient in the crowd may have wondered what would follow an eagle or an albatross (perhaps a deliberate drive into the woods on the following hole).

Webb soon put distance between herself and playing partner, Val Skinner, the honorary admiral from North Platte in landlocked Nebraska, who scuppered her round with two double bogeys in the first five holes.

Haller's lips smacked four times in the first 10 holes, and while the hobgoblins threatened briefly at the turn, a bold approach through the fork of a tree on the 16th steadied the nerves.

Britain's leading player was the American-based Caroline Pierce, who is such an uninitimidating figure at barely 100lb that she can presumably now look forward to a far greater pay day as Mike Tyson's next opponent.

Laura Davies' cards this week appear as though they have not been written by her, but by a teenager bearing a grudge. It was a measure of her tournament that a closing 72 was the best she has managed this week, during which time she has appeared increasingly more likely to call in the loggers to attend to the Duke's course's forestry.

The annual fly-past of Woburn's buzzing Tiger Moths is at least as annoying for Davies as the wasp that stung her at last week's Welsh Open, as it reminds her of a course where she has convinced herself she will never be successful in the tournament she covets most. Help may be at hand as she tries to move the flagsticks. Despite increased crowds, the sponsors, doubtless mindful of the exposure a Davies victory would generate, have indicated they may move venue after their commitment to Woburn runs out next year.

A far wider complaint was the pace of play, which has been lethargic. Webb's putting preparation, which involved the painstaking stalking of a desperate lioness, meant she was one of the more culpable. However, she made up some of this time with her military walks down the fairways, a striking figure in sunglasses that reminded one of a sleeping mask.

This sight is soon to disappear largely from British courses. With one continent conquered, Webb flies to Florida on Wednesday as she embarks on a career in the US LPGA.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 21

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