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Karrie Webb wants more corporate support

World number one Karrie Webb, the odds-on favourite for the AAMI Women's Australian Open, today called on the corporate world to give more support to women's golf events 'down under'.

Webb goes into the first round at the Yara Yara Golf Club in Melbourne's sand belt as the overwhelming favourite to win her second title in successive weeks on the 2001 Evian Tour.

And although she is not completely happy with her swing, she showed more concern for the lack of support shown for women's golf in Australia, particularly in light of the impressive television ratings the women's game has generated for the past two seasons.

"What more can we do as players, we have some of the best players in the world who are Australian," said Webb, winner of last week's ANZ Ladies Masters for the fourth consecutive year.

"We also have some of the best players in the world from Europe playing over here. Our ratings proved again last week. I don't think we can do any more as players. I think it's up to the administrators to have faith in us, to realise that last year was not a fluke."

Webb was referring to last season's ANZ Ladies Masters and AAMI Women's
Australian Open, and the fact that the Open received higher ratings than the corresponding men's event held over the same weekend.

"We had two great weekends of golf and we out-rated whatever was on TV," added Webb. "We did it again last week from the ANZ Ladies Masters. I think we out-rated the (Melbourne) Grand Prix. I have not seen that myself but I have been told that.

"We've shown Australia that we have a great show and are very entertaining and good to watch. The crowds were great last week at the ANZ Masters.

"If our ratings for two weeks are better or match the men, then I can't see why we can't play for similar purses in Australia. It's not like we have a full summer schedule over here, that we need sponsors to support 10 or 12

"We just need sponsors to support two events, to build these two events up. The more we build them up, the more we will attract bigger and better players to come over here."

Webb was commenting on the reduction in prize money at last week's ANZ Ladies Masters, which ultimately led to the loss of the LPGA sanction and some of the leading players from America.

Asked whether there was a built-in prejudice against women's golf in Australia, Webb was unsure whether that was the case but was keen to stress the success that Australian sportswomen had recently enjoyed, not only in golf but also the Olympics.

"What women have done in this country in the last year in all sporting arenas equals the men, if not better," added Webb, winner last week by a clear eight shots.

"Some of the gold medals that were won at the Olympics - the water polo, the field hockey, women's basketball went to the finals, which has never happened before. Obviously Susie O'Neil (swimming) and Cathie Freeman, you could just go on.

"Women dominated the Olympics for us. Corporate Australia should not think that women's gold is secondary.

"I know that economically Australia is not doing too well right now. But I don't think it's a big ask to make these tournaments bigger and better to show appreciation for what we are doing overseas."

Although last week's win in the ANZ Masters was Webb's first of the season, such is her dominance of the women's game at present that the bookmakers are offering her at $1.80 for this week's event.

In Australian betting parlance, that means that for every $1 you bet you get a mere $1.80 return.

Webb admitted that she wasn't much of a gambler but she was still surprised at being such odds-on favourite before a ball had been struck.

Karrie Webb wants more support from corporate Australia. Allsport.

"It's hard for any one person to be that favoured in a golf tournament," she added. "Golf is such a fickle game. One missed shot here or there, even though you thought you played well, could cost you the tournament.

"No one can win every tournament. There are a lot of great players in this field. Everyone, even you guys (the media), need to take note of how good some of the players are. The last two weeks the fields have been great."

As for her swing, Webb admitted that she was working on one or two things with her coach Kel Haller, but explained that they were probably beyond the appreciation of most onlookers.

"It is really just improving my takeaway at the top of my swing. It is nothing the naked eye could detect but it is something I know I need to work on and something Kel has known for a while as well.

"The way I am hitting it is still good. I still played well last week. I felt like I could do pretty well whatever I wanted with the ball. What I am working on is to make that even better."

An indication of the overwhelming odds on Webb this week can be taken from the price offered for the joint second favourites, Laura Davies of England and Sweden's Sophie Gustafson. They have been quoted A$9, which converts to odds of 8-1.

Last week in Queensland, Davies missed the cut for the first time in what she thinks was 60 tournaments, and has taken the rare step of visiting the range in order to familiarise herself with her new clubs.

Davies, who finished third in this tournament last season, played with a new set of Srixon's in the ANZ Ladies Masters and has admitted to having difficulty with her new driver.

Gustafson will also be hoping to rediscover the form that enabled her to fire a 67 in last week's opening round before falling off the pace with rounds of 76, 73 and 75.

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