KRAFT NABISCO CHAMPIONSHIP
Karrie Webb and her caddie, Mike Paterson, jumped into the pond at the 18th hole after Webb's victory yesterday.
Webb crafts playoff victory
She eagles the 18th and beats Ochoa on the first extra hole for the Kraft Nabisco title
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. » At the start of yesterday's final round of the $1.8 million Kraft Nabisco Championship, the only person who thought Karrie Webb would end up down under in Champions Lake was the Aussie herself. And she didn't dare tell anybody.
Shaking off the effects of a nasty 76 on Saturday, Webb went out and shot a 7-under 65 to force a playoff with Lorena Ochoa and eventually beat the not-so-merry Mexican on the first playoff hole to capture her seventh major title.
Webb has been mired in a two-year slump that often left her wondering if she would ever reclaim the glory days that led her to the top of the world at the beginning of the 21st century. In 1999 and 2000, Webb won 13 times, including three majors, but before yesterday hadn't taken home an LPGA Tour trophy since 2004.
A dramatic eagle from 116 yards out at the finishing hole put a damper on Michelle Wie's near-eagle from the fairway at the 16th to put Webb in the lead in the clubhouse at 9-under 279. Wie tapped in for birdie to move to 8 under and into second, but the 16-year-old from Honolulu would get no closer.
About 30 seconds after Wie put her golf ball inches from the hole, Webb holed hers with a sand wedge that had her screaming with delight. Wie's caddie, Greg Johnston, asked a CBS cameraman what had happened. Not until Wie exited the 16th did Johnston let the protégé know that she was no longer in the lead.
"Greg told me, 'Karrie holed out.' I was like, 'oh,' " Wie said. "Greg said, 'Just so you don't get shocked.' Do you think it's going to help telling me on that hole? But I wish mine would have gone in on the 16th. That would have been sweet."
How sweet it was for Webb, who needed 15 heart-stopping minutes to recover from her shot from the fairway that put a huge exclamation point on the best final round of her illustrious career. After she learned Wie had birdied the 16th and Natalie Gulbis joined Wie at 8 under at the 17th, Webb knew her work was not done.
Little did she know that neither of those young women would birdie the 18th and join her in a potential playoff. Instead, it was Ochoa who would find herself in time to hole an eagle putt at the last to force sudden-death. Ochoa spent most of the final round throwing up the seven-shot lead she had on Webb at the start of the day.
Wie caught Ochoa at the ninth with a birdie at the long par 5 as they made the turn for home at 9 under. Both bogeyed the 12th to fall to 8 under for the tournament, then Ochoa added another 5 to her scorecard at the par-4 13th to give Wie a one-shot lead with five to play. Wie bogeyed the 14th, then had a great par save at the 15th, but couldn't hold off the more experienced Webb down the stretch.
While Webb worked on her game at the range, Ochoa, Gulbis and Wie played the last in hopes of catching the clubhouse leader. Only Ochoa, who hit a monster drive and then a perfect 5-wood from 225 yards out to within 8 feet at the par-5 last, caught her.
But Ochoa, who lost in a playoff at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay to begin the year, couldn't keep the magic in her golf bag as she walked back up to the 18th tee. After she missed her birdie from 12 feet at the first playoff hole, Webb sank hers from 6 feet to secure her 31st victory on the LPGA Tour.
"I think every week I can picture myself winning," Webb said. "I don't ever tee it up thinking that I can't. So yes, I imagine it every week. And it's just a matter of me believing in myself and me getting in there and doing the job.
"I'm ecstatic right now. I feel pretty lucky to be here. When you hit a shot at the flag on the last hole thinking you need birdie at least, when it goes in the hole, there's always a little bit of an element of luck there. So I feel pretty fortunate. Just a lot of hard work paid off, just really enjoying the moment."
As much fun as it was for Webb, the heartache inside of Ochoa is the other extreme of an emotional day for these four golfers. It was her third playoff loss in just more than a year and her sixth runner-up finish since the start of 2005. Ochoa didn't lose this tournament just at the last.
After opening with a record-setting 62, she played the next three rounds in 1 over, allowing many golfers back in the chase.
"I think I lost the tournament on the back nine with my driver," Ochoa said. "On 18 (at the end of regulation), I'll never forget that. I know I'm doing good under pressure when I need to. I had the lead. I just didn't take advantage of the opportunities. That was it, the problem."
Gulbis continued her frustrating journey on the LPGA Tour, as well. Despite cashing nearly $2 million in LPGA checks, she has never won a tournament in 110 tries. She made a pressure-packed birdie at the 17th to join Wie at 8 under, but missed an 18-footer at the par-5 18th to settle for a tie for third.
"I had a good weekend," Gulbis said. "I shot 8 under over the weekend. I didn't do much the first two days, so I'm very pleased with how I finished."
Unfortunately for all three in the final group, it wasn't enough to overtake the hard-charging Webb, who holed two shots for eagle in the tournament.
"Well, I guess I know that I've been down this stretch and I know what it takes to win major tournaments," Webb said. "I just knew I had a little bit of an edge over the three of them, probably not so much Lorena because she had won, but I knew I had an edge if I could post a number that it would be really hard for them to go out and produce.
"They're all very, very talented players. I just knew that there's more weight on their shoulders when they actually have to make birdie to be in a playoff or win the tournament. The crowds were great out there all day, cheering for me, you know, especially when I made the turn. They knew there was a chance I could be up there. This gives me hope."