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Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, March 6, 2000

H A W A I I _ G O L F

Webb gives
Hawaii another
fan-tastic finish

Her playoff win in the LPGA's
Takefuji Classic was just as
exciting as Woods'
victory in January

By Paul Arnett


There will be few states that can match the drama island golf fans witnessed the opening two months of the professional season.

Beginning with Tigers Woods' sudden-death victory over Ernie Els at the Mercedes Championship on Maui in early January and ending with Karrie Webb's similar exploits over Annika Sorenstam at the inaugural Takefuji Classic this past weekend on the Big Island, Hawaii was the site of fantastic finishes.

Not until the seniors return to Maui in October will Hawaii be hosting any major golf tournaments. But the memories of these opening eight weeks should carry followers for a while.

Granted, the PGA's Sony Open and the LPGA's Cup Noodles Hawaiian Open weren't as strong as the Mercedes and the Takefuji Classic. Not having Webb and Woods walking the Oahu fairways is something that will hopefully change in the future.

But it would be tough to top the duo who did manage to feather their nests one more time. Paul Azinger's emotional run at Waialae Country Club that carried him to his first victory since the 1993 PGA Championship made for good television and even better copy.

So did Hall of Fame member Betsy King standing in the winner's circle at the Cup Noodles Hawaiian Open. It was the first win for her since the 1997 Dinah Shore. And should this be the final time the 44-year-old accomplishes an LPGA Tour win, she can say her first (1984 Kemper Open) and last tournament wins were in the island chain.

"It was great getting a win here because at this stage in my career, you never know if you'll get there again," said King, who didn't survive the cut this past weekend. "These were two good tournaments for the women. But I'm prejudiced. Hawaii holds a special place in my heart.''

Sorenstam can say the same thing. She and her family spent three weeks here getting used to the heat and enjoying what Hawaii has to offer. It prepped her well for the $800,000 tournament played at the picturesque Kona Country Club ocean course. Had Sorenstam putted more to her liking, she never would have lost to Webb on the first hole of the playoff.

"I'm very happy,'' Sorenstam said. "Last year, my long game was not there, and I'm very confident with that now. I just need to keep working on my putting. You need to have confidence on the greens -- and Karrie Webb has it. If I can make the putts this week, I'm 20-under today. I played that well. I just have to be patient and keep grinding. I got so close -- you can't get any closer than losing in a playoff. This gives me a lot of confidence. My turn will come.''

Much like Woods and David Duval, Webb and Sorenstam have seen each other's success from a distance. The Takefuji Classic was the first time they came face to face and sets the stage for a fierce rivalry that can only help the identity crisis of the LPGA.

Webb now has won four consecutive events. She will take this week off before attempting to match the LPGA record of five straight wins held by numerous players, including Nancy Lopez.

"I don't really think about things like that too much,'' Webb said. "I just keep going out each week with the belief I have a chance to win. I have a lot of confidence right now. I enjoy these situations. Of course you get butterflies in your stomach and the adrenaline runs through your body, but I love that feeling.''

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