[ GOLF ]

Karrie Webb hit a tee shot off the Wailea Gold Course's second hole yesterday on Maui while on the way to winning an event-record $470,000 in the LPGA Skins Game.

Webb gives Sorenstam
payback at Wailea

By Paul Arnett

WAILEA, Maui >> For all the things Karrie Webb did right at the end of the 20th century, she has been overshadowed by what rival Annika Sorenstam accomplished at the beginning of the 21st.

Webb won six times in 1999 and another seven tournaments in 2000 to be compared to Tiger Woods and what he managed to do on the PGA Tour. She won six major championships faster than anyone in LPGA Tour history and has made the cut in 158 of 163 tournaments since her rookie campaign in 1996.

But over the past two years, Webb was caught and passed by Sorenstam, who has said many times that her Australian counterpart rekindled the fire that had died out somewhat at the close of the 1990s.

The Swedish standout won eight times in 2001 after losing to Webb in a playoff at the Takefuji Classic on the Big Island. Anyone in the interview room that Sunday evening could tell Sorenstam's loss to Webb was eating her up inside. Playing for second wasn't what the world's former No. 1 player was about.

But what she accomplished last year surprised even her. Sorenstam captured 11 tournaments on the LPGA Tour and another two worldwide, leaving Webb wondering what happened. She had only two victories last year and $1 million in earnings, setting up an interesting matchup at this weekend's $600,000 ConAgra Foods LPGA Skins Game.

True, it's only an exhibition match, but Webb responded to Sorenstam's two-year challenge by winning 12 skins and a record $470,000. Sorenstam finished a distant second with three skins and $70,000. Laura Diaz collected the remaining three skins for $60,000 with Laura Davies getting skunked. It was the first time in nine LPGA Skins Games that a defending champion came away with nothing.

"This is a nice way to start the year," Webb said. "It certainly exceeded my expectations. I never expected to win that much money. I've never been one to worry about being overshadowed by someone else or vice versa. Annika has had a great two years. Hopefully, I can come back this season and play well."

It's not as if Sorenstam was playing badly at the calm Wailea Golf Course. She had eight birdies on 21 holes, but her timing just wasn't right.

I'm happy with the way I played," Sorenstam said. "But in the skins game, you have to birdie the right hole at the right time. I made eight birdies, so that's great. But Karrie made them when they counted."

It took Webb a while to get started. Diaz birdied the first hole for a $20,000 skin. Two holes later, Sorenstam sunk a 7-footer for two skins and $40,000. Diaz collected her final two with an 11-foot birdie on the fifth hole. Not until the seventh, did Webb get two skins and $50,000 with a tricky 5-footer.

"The most pressure I felt was on the seventh hole to win my first skin," Webb said. "That's the goal coming in here, to win a skin. Once I won that one, I started swinging better. I played better than I hoped. I feel good about my swing, though."

Someone who didn't feel that well was Davies. She had some putts early on that halved the holes, but the back nine was an exercise in futility. The British native never has played that well in Hawaii or Florida and said it was due to the Bermuda greens.

"I had my chances early on and didn't make my putts," Davies said. "I had some chances on the par-5s, but it wasn't meant to be. I don't putt well on these type of greens. I never have, but that's not an excuse. Give Karrie credit, she played fantastic. The skins is all about doing it at the right time and I didn't."

Webb's timing was impeccable. She nailed an 18-footer for birdie on the par-4 12th that was worth four skins and $120,000. She sealed the deal on the 16th with a 3-footer that earned her another four skins and the championship.

After Webb pocketed another $40,000 on the next hole, the foursome exited the $100,000 18th all tied. Three holes later, it was just Webb and Sorenstam. Webb made a 3-footer for birdie after Sorenstam missed her 15-foot try to set a standard that may never be broken.

Webb set records for most money won in an LPGA Skins Game and most money won on a back nine ($420,000). She moved from ninth to second on the career skins game list with $710,000. She trails only Davies, who has $890,000.

"I could have played that well and come away with nothing," Webb said.

"That's the way the skins game works. I was putting aggressively on the back nine. You just try to keep the flow going."

Sorenstam has kept it going for two years. As a result, she was invited to play in a PGA Tour event in New York. The tournament director of the B.C. Open asked her agent over the weekend, but Sorenstam wanted to hear more details before committing to anything.

"I just heard about it," Sorenstam said. "I'm in Hawaii to play in the skins game. I don't know anything about it. I will talk to my agent about it when I get back."

Davies, who played with the men in a Skins Game in Australia and the Johnnie Walker Cup, believes Sorenstam can do it.

"I've done it before and I will tell you that besides playing on a tougher course from the back tees, I found that, when I did it, there is that extra pressure of playing well to justify being there.

"I have no doubt Annika could make the cut in a PGA Tour event. Knowing her, she wouldn't be satisfied with making the cut, she would want to win it, too. I wouldn't bet against her. I wouldn't bet against any of these ladies (Sorenstam and Webb)."


E-mail to Sports Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --