KRAFT NABISCO CHAMPIONSHIP
Karrie Webb watched her tee shot on the third hole during the third round yesterday.
Webb remembers when
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. » Karrie Webb sat along the wall at the Kailua-Kona Airport, no different than anyone else waiting for an Aloha Airlines jet to return her to Honolulu.
Hours before, this shy woman from Down Under had gone toe to toe with Annika Sorenstam at the Takefuji Classic and beaten her with a birdie at the first playoff hole to win her third tournament of 2000 in as many tries.
Life was good for the Aussie back then. She was arguably the best player in the world, but if she knew this, the then-25-year-old didn't show it. The few people who did recognize Webb at the airport congratulated her for beating Sorenstam. But it only made her more uncomfortable as she tried to find a place to hide from fame's spotlight.
Three weeks later, Webb would be unable to escape the glare after jumping into Champions Lake with her victory at the 2000 Kraft Nabisco Championship. It was her second of six major titles as she would go on to win seven tournaments that season after hoisting six trophies in 1999.
As good as Sorenstam was at this point in the two women's careers, Webb was better. Her first major in 1999 came at the du Maurier Classic. She won the U.S. Women's Open in 2000 and 2001, the McDonald's LPGA Championship in 2001 and the Women's British Open in 2002.
But no majors and only two victories since.
She played herself into contention on Friday with a 4-under 68 that included an eagle 2 from 152 yards out with a 7-iron at the par-4 15th that launched her past Michelle Wie and briefly into second place, before settling for a tie for third entering the weekend.
Unfortunately for the 31-year-old, the current bugaboos that have kept her from winning an event since 2004 paid her an untimely visit during yesterday's third round as she went from third to a tie for sixth after shooting an unattractive 76 that included two three-putt greens that led to one bogey and one double bogey.
It left her seven shots behind 54-hole leader Lorena Ochoa and likely out of contention to add to her list of majors. But at this point, Webb is still looking for the confidence level that once had her on top of the women's golfing world.
"I'm out here to win," said Webb, who has 30 trophies stashed here and there at her home in Florida. "I'm not out here just to make up the numbers. I think the work that I've done, I feel like I'm good enough to play as well as I did five or six years ago.
"But I think the difference is now that I might really enjoy it and -- not that I never appreciated, I just didn't understand how well I was playing. Now, if I get that sort of form going, I think I'll really enjoy it."
She didn't enjoy much of her round yesterday that produced two birdies, four bogeys and one double in a major test that lasted 5 grueling hours.
Playing partners Ochoa and Michelle Wie didn't fare much better, but they held it together when the rough got going with their golf balls. Not so Webb.
She finds herself on the other side of that fine line between disaster and success. On Friday, that eagle at the 15th put her right in the thick of things. Yesterday, she was only 7 feet away from a birdie and wound up three-putting for the second time. This inconsistency has been a problem that won't go away.
"For a long time I've felt like I've been close," Webb said. "I'm just on the other side of playing well. I guess that's the lesson I've learned in the last couple of years. When I was playing really well, I was on the other side of the fine line and things were going well.
"And you don't realize until you're on the wrong side of the fine line how close you really are, but it's hard to explain to people that you feel you are a better player now, but the results aren't proving that. I've done a lot of hard work and obviously I feel pleased with where I'm at, but obviously, there's still a lot of golf to be played. I'm curious to see how I end up Sunday."
No matter what happens today, Webb continues to climb in the worldwide rankings. She is currently 17th and could improve on that number with a solid showing as she continues to get a close view of the young guns dotting the tour. Yesterday, she played with Wie and Ochoa. Today, Morgan Pressel and Hee-Won Han are her playing partners.
"Mentally, I just don't have the confidence I once had," Webb said.
"It's just a matter of having more and more rounds of what I saw (Friday) just to get the confidence back up and that belief in myself again."