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Webb ready for title defence after poor year

Australia's Karrie Webb begins her defence of the British Open at Royal Lytham & St Anne's on Thursday after the most disappointing run of her highly impressive eight-year career.

But the 28-year-old, whose first professional win came in the 1995 British Open at Woburn, is still upbeat about her chances of collecting her fourth win in the championship.

"I finished fifth in the Evian Masters in France last week and feel my game is in fairly decent shape," she said.

"The trouble this year is that I have tended to have one real blow out.

"But I always love coming back to a links course, and the British Open has very special memories for me."

Webb, a former world number one who has won 28 LPGA titles, including six majors, to her name has not won anywhere since she triumphed at Turnberry last year.

"The key this week will be to keep the ball in play from the tee," she said. "You don't want to be chipping out of the rough. I'll be aggressive when I can, but I'll probably only use the driver four or five times in a round."

While Webb is a British Open form horse, world number one Annika Sorenstam is seeking a first victory in the major she needs to complete a career Grand Slam.

"I'd love to do it, but I can't force it," said the Swede, who has admitted she is still not quite percent fit after pulling out of the Canadian Open with exhaustion three weeks ago.

Juli Inkster heads a strong American threat that also includes the shock winner of this month's U.S. Women's Open, Hilary Lunke.

Inkster won the Evian Masters by six shots last Saturday, but she admitted that this week is an altogether different test.

"Last week, the weather was perfect, the course was soft and you could rely on the yardage book," she pointed out. "On this course, everything can change in the blink of an eye and so much depends on the elements."

Pak Se Ri, the world number two and the champion at Sunningdale two years ago, heads a strong South Korean challenge, although she doesn't have many fond memories of her last visit to Lytham for the 1998 Open.

Back then, she was a 20-year-old rookie who had taken the women's game by storm with wins in two majors, the LPGA Championship and the US Open.

But she suffered in the wind and gales that saw American Sherri Steinhauer open with an 81 before going on to win the title. "I certainly hope the weather is kinder this week," said Pak.


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