du Maurier Classic
du Maurier Classic
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Webb finally spins a major championship

An incredible rise to the top of women's golf. A spectacular comeback for her first major championship. For someone accused of lacking personality, Karrie Webb's golf has been a thrill a minute.

Stealing some of the thunder from Juli Inkster's season, Webb charged from five strokes behind to win the du Maurier Classic today by making birdies on four of the last five holes.

"I don't ever try to think of myself as the best player in the world, but I played like I was today," said Webb, who closed with her second straight 6-under 66 for a two-stroke victory over Laura Davies.

Webb won for the sixth time this year, and she already has won 15 tournaments in an LPGA Tour career that began just 3 1/2 years ago. The du Maurier was the biggest one yet -- her first major championship, with several more likely to follow.

Her victory was not complete until Davies failed to make a 12-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the par-5 18th. Webb was showered with beer as she shared a tearful embrace with her mother, who travels from Australia to see her daughter player once a year.

What a week to watch.

"It feels awesome," said Webb, who finished at 11-under 277. "I just can't ever imagine that this would happen to me so quickly."

Just as quickly, Webb surged up the leaderboard with two crucial pars and a string of birdies, none longer than 8 feet. Davies, who led by three strokes with just five holes to play, didn't need to see a leaderboard to find out what was going on.

Roars resounded through Priddis Greens Golf and Country Club with every critical putt Webb made down the stretch. She took only 12 putts on the back nine -- the same as Inkster when she won the LPGA Championship, the same as Payne Stewart when he won the U.S. Open.

"I expected it," Davies said. "You can just sense it."

Clinging to a one-stroke lead before Webb made her final birdie, Davies three-putted the 17th green from 30 feet for bogey. She also three-putted the 18th, although the final putt was meaningless. She closed with a 72 for 279.

"If Webby hadn't been so good on the day, level par would have won," Davies said. "She's just the best player on tour this year. She proved it again."

Inkster's bid to win her third straight major championship and a berth in the LPGA Hall of Fame never materialized. She missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the first hole, three-putted from 12 feet for double bogey on No. 4 and missed another short par putt on the 10th.

She finally got it going with five birdies on the last eight holes for a 69 that left her alone in third at 280, but all she could do was watch another amazing performance by Webb.

"This is her first major, and probably the first of many," said Dawn Coe-Jones, who closed with a 74 and finished fourth to be the top Canadian in the field.

Webb won $180,000 for the victory and shattered the LPGA Tour's season record with $1,254,051 in just 18 events. Annika Sorenstam set the previous mark of $1,236,789 in 22 events two years ago.

Webb went 66-66 on the weekend, capping a remarkable comeback in which she was 4-over late in the second round Friday. She made birdie on 18 of the final 40 holes.

"If I watched it on TV, I would have been in awe of the person doing that," Webb said. "I don't know exactly what was going through my mind. I know there was a lot of adrenaline. I was nervous. But I have so much confidence that I just step up and do it. If it doesn't happen, it's not meant to be."

Still, the tournament belonged to Davies. She stuck with her strategy of using driver only on the par-5s and opting for position with irons off the tee on the other holes. Davies was 8-under on the par-5s going into the final round, but had to settle for par on the first four today, including a three-putt from about 50 feet on No. 12.

Davies turned to her caddie and offered a harbinger of the rest of round.

"That's a big mistake," she told him of her failure to make birdie. "You watch Webby make a move now."

That she did.

Webb saved par from 20 feet on No. 13, then made three straight birdies from inside 8 feet to tie for the lead at 10-under.

"If she doesn't make any mistakes, she's got it in the bag -- maybe one or two birdies," Webb said. "I whip up three in a row, and I think that had to catch her off guard."

After two-putt par on the 17th, Webb hit a 5-wood into the back rough on the 18th, chipped to 5 feet and made the birdie putt.

Davies had to change her mode from cautious to courageous, and for a short time she was. Her approach from the right rough on No. 16 got a good kick onto the green and stopped 5 feet away for birdie that gave her the lead at 11-under.

But she finally missed a short putt for par on the 17th and failed to birdie the 18th.

Inkster won the U.S. Open and the LPGA Championship, and she was trying to become only the fifth player to win three majors in a season. She came up three strokes short, but offered no apologies.

"The first two days, I hit it poorly and putted well. The last two days I hit it well and couldn't putt," Inkster said. "Go figure. That's golf. I'm sure there are 141 players who would love to finish third."

For Inkster, the LPGA Hall of Fame will have to wait. And at this rate, it won't be long before Webb is there, too.

DIVOTS: Sherri Turner made the fifth hole-in-one of the championship, an 8-iron from 151 yards on No. 11. The record for most aces in a tournament is believed to be six, set earlier this year in the Titleholders Championship. ... Juli Inkster played the four majors this year in 45-under par. Her worst finish was a tie for fifth in the Dinah Shore. ... What could be the final du Maurier Classic will be staged next year at Royal Ottawa Golf and Country Club. Anti-tobacco legislation could keep the cigarette company from sponsoring the event after 2000.

 

AP


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