HARRISON, N.Y. – Karrie Webb has hoisted seven major championship trophies in her career.
Nobody teeing it up this week at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship has won more majors.
In fact, only six women in the history of golf have won more.
Only real legends have won more, only Patty Berg (15), Mickey Wright (13), Louise Suggs (11), Annika Sorenstam (10), Babe Zaharias (10) and Betsy Rawls (8).
That’s what made Webb’s admission so telling after she closed out a 2-under-par 71 Friday at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to move into weekend position to win her eighth major. She tees it up Saturday one shot behind Sei Young Kim.
“I didn’t sleep well last night,” Webb said. “I don’t know if it’s been awhile since I’ve played with that much adrenaline. I just still had it in my body when I was trying to go to sleep.”
Webb still has the drive to win on the game’s grandest stages. Twenty years after she won her first LPGA title, 16 years after she won her first major, she still craves more.
“I was a little antsy,” Webb said of Friday’s start.
At 40, Webb is still driven by a dream. She wants to win an Olympic gold medal for her native Australia with golf returning to the Olympics next year. There’s still a lot of “want to” in Webb’s game and there’s something special to appreciate in that because she might not be around a whole lot longer, at least not with this same high level of ambition.
She has told us this Olympic bid fuels her and after it’s over we might not see as much of her. Even if we do, we might not see the same burning desire. We saw Annika Sorenstam hit the wall after performing at such a high level for so many years. Sorenstam stepped away from the game at 37. We saw Lorena Ochoa do the same at 28.
There’s longevity to Webb’s excellence to marvel over as she makes this last hard run of hers through the Olympics next year because this level of excellence can’t be fueled forever. This is a huge investment Webb is making to win gold.
“I sort of feel like I am going to play as full a schedule as I have, and work as hard as I have, for the next two years and then see where that shakes out,” Webb said earlier this year. “I could be playing close to the best golf of my career, and it could be really hard to scale back. Or, I might just be ready for a break. Or, I might be somewhere in between.”
Webb went to work changing her swing with Mike McGetrick last year, and we’re seeing the fruit of their work. Webb is full of confidence as she seeks to win her first major since taking the Kraft Nabisco in 2006.
“I definitely think my game is as good as it's ever been,” Webb said. “It's just a matter of getting out of my own way and allowing that to happen.”
The women’s game is so much younger than the men’s game. Webb is reminded of that all the time with 18-year-old Lydia Ko reigning as the Rolex No. 1, with 19-year-old Hyo Joo Kim beating her down the stretch at the Evian Championship last year, with 17-year-old Brooke Henderson contending this week.
“It makes me think about my age,” said Webb, who won twice last season. “It's fun to watch the young kids play because I know I used to be that fearless, and that's probably the only thing I wish I had. Because, obviously, as you get older, it doesn't matter what we're doing, we all lose that little bit of fearlessness that we have when we were young. But I think for me, the experience of knowing myself very well, and what I need to do to play well, is just as important.”
Juli Inkster can appreciate what it takes to keep the love of the game going strong enough to do the work it takes to keep pace with all the youth in the women’s game. Inkster, like Webb, has won seven majors. At 54, Inkster made the cut this week. Laura Davies can appreciate Webb’s longevity, too. She’s 51 and she also made the cut.
With Webb going out with Kim as the leaders in the final pairing Saturday, Webb is right where she wants to be, trying to control all the adrenalin that comes with being in contention and trying to get a good night’s sleep.
“I feel comfortable with where I put myself,” Webb said. “Who knows if that will be leading or tied for the lead or one behind tomorrow. I'm just really happy to have played the course really solidly for two days and see what happens on the weekend.”