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Karrie Webb back to best form again

At the start of this year, there was one overriding question to be answered on the LPGA Tour.

Would Annika Sorenstam continue her domination of the women's game or could this be the season when youngsters such as Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer make a serious breakthrough?

However, another burning question has developed over the last two months. Is former world number one Karrie Webb now back to her best?

The re-emergence of the 31-year-old Australian since the start of the season has been nothing short of phenomenal.

It began in remarkable style with her victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship early last month, and with one shot in particular.

From the moment she holed a 116-yard wedge shot for an eagle at the 72nd hole of the opening major of the year at Mission Hills in California, the confidence she has lacked in recent years suddenly began to flood through her veins.

Webb went on to beat Mexico's Lorena Ochoa in a playoff for the seventh major victory of her career, launching a superb run on the LPGA Tour that included two runner-up spots and a 10th placing.

On Sunday, she reaffirmed her growing confidence by romping to a seven-shot victory at the Michelob Ultra Open on the River Course at Kingsmill Resort & Spa.

The only double champion on the 2006 LPGA Tour, Webb now sits proudly at the top of the money list with $935,202 and is poised to return to the top of the game she ruled before Swede Sorenstam.

Success second time round promises to be much sweeter for the Australian.

"From the moment I joined the LPGA, I played good golf and I got progressively better and better until I was number one in the world," she told reporters after clinching the 32nd LPGA title of her career.

Webb made a major impact on Tour in 1996, winning four times that year as she became the first rookie to earn $1 million and top the money list. For the next four years, she dominated the game.

She claimed two more money list titles, earned two Player of the Year awards and peaked in 2000 with an astonishing seven victories and three runner-up spots in 22 starts. She also gained entry to the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame.

"Back then, I don't think I really had a clue what I was doing," Webb conceded.

"It was almost too easy. Also, while I enjoyed playing good golf, I didn't enjoy the responsibilities that went along with being number one in the world.

"But now I'm really, really appreciating this stretch. I have worked hard on my game over the last few years and, finally, I am getting the rewards.

"But I know that there is a very fine line between winning and finishing in the pack. I just want to ride on the right side of that line for as long as possible."

Just over three years ago, Webb began to make changes to her swing.

She worked with Kelvin Haller, a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair, in her home town of Ayr in north Queensland and with another Australian, Ian Triggs, who is based in the U.S.

Her revamped swing has been in a grove on the practice range for a long time, but it was only this season that she finally began to trust it out on the course. That memorable wedge shot at Mission Hills helped seal the deal.

"It was beginning to become so frustrating," Webb said. "I would make every putt in practice and hit it flush on the range.

"But on the course, I'd hit one bad shot and mentally I wouldn't trust it for the rest of the round."

As she looks ahead to the rest of this season, the Australian remains cautious.

"I'm not going to get ahead of myself," she said. "It's too early to think about money lists and end of year awards.

"That's where I am different from Annika. She sets long-term goals, whereas I don't. I already feel I've achieved more than I ever dreamed I would."

For the next two weeks, Webb is taking a break before she prepares for the second major of the year, the LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace, Maryland from June 8-11.

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