28 Apr 2020 | Professional golf | Feature stories |
Great Australian Moments 2: The Karrie crush
by Martin Blake
She came out of the little town of Ayr in northern Queensland, and by the time she was 21, Karrie Webb was the best player in the women’s game, unequivocally. In her first season on the main LPGA Tour, 1996, she led the money list.
But the game moves quickly, and by 2001, the Australian was already under challenge from Annika Sorenstam. The Swede had already won a major among five tournament wins that season, and in March, had shot 59 in a tournament at Phoenix – a first for a woman.
At the 2001 US Women’s Open, played at Pine Needles in North Carolina, Webb came in as the defending champion after her six-shot romp in Chicago in 2000, but Sorenstam was the hotter player on form.
They would go on to have a great rivalry but in this particular week, it was a mismatch. Webb holed everything, setting it up with a second-round 65. Ultimately she won by eight shots – the biggest margin in a US Women’s Open for more than 20 years – by shooting seven-under par. She was the only player who finished in red numbers; meanwhile Sorenstam was 14 shots in arrears.
In the biggest tournament in the world, Webb was more dominant than she was before or since.
It was summed up by her finish on the Sunday. Reaching the 71st hole and clearly safe after a brief challenge from Se Ri Pak, the great Korean, Webb holed a bomb from long range that brought a huge smile to her face. Later, she said that ball was running so hard that it could have raced into the greenside bunker had it not hit the centre of the cup.
Then she put the exclamation mark with another long-range birdie at the 18th. And what a way to finish. “A lot more people are worried about my game than I was,’’ said Webb, who at the time had won four of the previous seven majors.
The Australian and Sorenstam would have many more battles, and Sorenstam, of course, had her own hall of fame career, winning 10 majors.
Webb’s tally of majors ended at seven (although this does not include several others which she won before those tournaments were deemed majors). The best single moment of her career was her hole-out eagle from 100 metres at Rancho Mirage in California to force a playoff in the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2006. It wasn't even her biggest margin in a major; she lapped the field at the Kraft Nabisco in 2000 by 10 shots.
But at Pine Needles in 2001, she showed what was probably her greatest, sustained game, a clinic in all facets in the world's biggest event.
The youngest-ever World Golf Hall of Fame inductee at 30, she is widely renowned as the greatest Australian golfer of all time. Who’s to argue?
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