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Karrie Webb aiming for career Grand Slam

More comparisons to Tiger Woods are on the horizon, the kind Karrie Webb wouldn't mind in the least.

Two weeks removed from her second straight victory in the U.S. Women's Open, the 26-year-old Australian arrived at the LPGA Championship with a chance to become the youngest woman to complete the career Grand Slam.

``Only seven majors ago, I had not won one, so it would be quite special, and I'll have achieved that quickly,'' Webb said Wednesday after a pro-am round at DuPont Country Club, a tree-lined course that has been deceptively difficult for her the past few years.

Webb's entire career has been on the fast track.

She won her second start on the LPGA Tour in 1996, a rookie year so spectacular she became the first woman to crack the $1 million mark. After hearing questions about whether she could win a major, Webb went on a tear by winning four of the next seven, and qualified for the Hall of Fame in only her 111th tournament.

Coming off a seven-stroke victory in the U.S. Women's Open, Webb has set her sights on the only major missing from her resume.

``The tournament has always been important to me,'' Webb said. ``But now being the one major event I haven't won for the career Grand Slam ... that's in the back of my mind. It was a focus of mine at the start of the year.''

Only four other women have won the career Grand Slam — Louise Suggs, Mickey Wright, Pat Bradley and Juli Inkster.

Wright won all four legs in 1962 when she was 27. Woods was even younger, completing it last year when he won the British Open at St. Andrews at age 24.

No one can appreciate Webb's circumstances better than Inkster. Two years ago, Inkster won the U.S. Open by five strokes in Mississippi, then blew past the field in the closing holes at DuPont to win the McDonald's LPGA Championship and complete the career Grand Slam.

The difference is that Inkster had been burdened by a U.S. Open that slipped away from her seven years earlier, and was relieved to finally have gotten rid of those demons.

``Anything else I did was gravy,'' Inkster said. ``I just played really relaxed. I played with a lot of confidence and I played very aggressive. I wasn't really worried about the outcome. I could have finished last, and I still won the U.S. Open.

``I think that's the kind of attitude you have to have,'' she said. ``I can't go in here and say, 'Oh, gosh, the pressure in on me.' I think the pressure is on everybody else.''

Last year's U.S. Women's Open was played in July, so this is the first crack Webb has at the career Grand Slam.

Her opposition consists of the usual suspects, starting with Annika Sorenstam. The Swede won the first major of the year at the Nabisco Championship, became the first woman to shoot a 59 and had a four-tournament winning streak.

Inkster, the two-time defending LPGA champion, can snag another piece of history this week as the first player to win a modern major three consecutive years. Patty Berg was the only other three-peat major champion, winning the defunct Titleholders from 1937-39.

``If I can get myself in position come Sunday, I'll have a chance to win,'' she said.

But Webb's biggest competition might be the course itself, and her attitude about what it takes to post the lowest score.

This is the only major where Webb has missed the cut (1999), but she was in contention to win last year until she lost her patience.

She was at 4 under through eight holes in the final round until making bogey on the par-5 9th, a hole like so many at Dupont where she thought she should make a birdie. Trying to force her game on a course that had become fast and firm, she played the final nine holes in 3-over 39 when even par would have gotten her into a playoff.

``It's the type of course that's deceivingly harder than you think it is,'' Webb said. ``You can play really well in the practice round and pro-am and feel like you're going to tear it up, and it just never is the case. I have yet to find the answers for that.''

She promises to treat this week like a U.S. Open, a course that rewards patience, good decisions and great ball-striking.

``I'm not going to set a score,'' Webb said. ``I'm just going to go out there and try to shoot as low as I can every day and keep my patience.''

That might be what it takes to put her into an elite group of Grand Slam winners.

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