LPGA - The Inaugural
LPGA - The Inaugural
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Robbins sets course record to successfully defend title

ORLANDO, Fla. - As far as Karrie Webb was concerned, the rainbow that arched over the 18th green was a more ominous sight than the scoreboard that showed Kelly Robbins in the clubhouse with a course-record 64 and a two-stroke lead.

Standing on the 14th tee, rain falling harder and harder from a single cloud on an otherwise sunny day, Webb turned to Patty Sheehan and offered this assessment of the HealthSouth Inaugural.

"That pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is sitting in Kelly Robbins's lap right now,'' Webb said.

She was right.

The biggest storm today came from Robbins, who charged from behind for the second year in a row to win the LPGA's first tournament of the year. Robbins rallied from six strokes off the lead with her 8-under 64 at Grand Cypress Resort for a one-stroke victory over Webb and Tina Barrett.

"Kelly is capable of shooting a score like that any day of the week,'' Webb said. "Six strokes back is not out of the tournament, which she showed today.''

Robbins finished at 11-under 205, the lowest score in the five-year history of the tournament.

Webb birdied the 16th and had a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff, but the ball hung on the lip. Barrett, who entered the final round tied for the lead with Catriona Matthew of Scotland, chipped in for birdie on the 17th to get to 10-under, but her 25-foot birdie putt on the last hole ran by on the left.

Cindy Figg-Currier also could have caught Robbins with a birdie on the last hole but missed the green and failed to save par. She finished alone in fourth at 207. Matthew closed with a 73 and finished at 208.

"I wasn't hitting the ball all that well, but I hit it close enough and I had a hot putter,'' Robbins said. "I stole one.''

She's used to that.

A year ago, Robbins came from four strokes back to win the HealthSouth by matching what was then the course record with a 6-under 66. Today was the sixth time in her career she has shot 64. Four of those have come in the final round, and two have ended in victory.

Robbins won $82,500 for her ninth career victory. She now has won at least one tournament each of the past seven years, the longest streak on the LPGA Tour since Patty Sheehan's nine-year streak that ended in 1996.

Sheehan, one back of the lead to start the day, took two double bogeys on the front nine and closed with a 77.

"I don't know if I'm in a zone yet,'' Robbins said. "I just happened to stick a 64 in there and beat everybody else.''

The early starting time today turned out to be a huge advantage for Robbins. As Matthew and Barrett grinded away to keep their lead, Robbins quietly moved up the leaderboard. When she birdied the par-5 15th, there was a five-way tie for the lead at 10-under -- Robbins, Barrett, Matthew, Webb and Jean Bartholomew.

Robbins was the only who didn't stumble somewhere along the way -- perhaps because she was the only one who didn't have to deal with the wacky weather. Webb bogeyed the 13th, while Barrett and Matthew each dropped two shots along the way.

The question now for Robbins is whether she can keep this up.

The difference between her streak and other great runs by Sheehan, Nancy Lopez and Laura Davies is the number of victories. Robbins, who prefers to stay out of the spotlight, has never won more than two tournaments a year.

Last year was a perfect example. After winning the HealthSouth, Robbins didn't win again until the Tournament of Champions in October.

"I think I've definitely learned from last year,'' Robbins said. "My main goal is to put myself in position to win every week. Consistency is very important to me. Hopefully, I can keep this momentum going.''

DIVOTS: Laura Davies, a notorious bettor, finished her round about 1:30 p.m. EST and was asked who she thought would win the Super Bowl. "Falcons,'' she replied without hesitation. A little less than three hours later, the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 30-27 in overtime, to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. ... LPGA commissioner Jim Ritts says he expects the Inaugural to have a new title sponsor next year, but that the tournament likely will remain at Grand Cypress Resort "for a long time.'' ... Dale Eggeling received the biggest payoff of her 19-year career simply by making the cut. Eggeling won the season-long Evista Legends Series that ended today, a bonus pool for players 40 or older. She earned $125,000 for having the most points, which is $27,500 more than she earned for winning the Los Angeles Open last year.