Webb Back in the Mix at McDonalds

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04 McDonaldWILMINGTON, Del. -- Karrie Webb walked away from the LPGA Championship three years ago with another runaway victory in a major that made her, at age 26, the youngest woman to complete the career Grand Slam. Her game was the best in women's golf. So much has changed in the last few years that even though Webb arrived at DuPont Country Club having won for the 30th time on the LPGA Tour, she is taking baby steps back to the top.
 
Her goal still is to win majors, but right now she is realistic while she continues to make swing changes.
 
'I think for the first time in my career, I have someplace to go,' Webb said Wednesday. 'I finished 11th on the money list last year. It's not a bad year by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn't my best.
 
'I wanted to get back to being a lot more consistent. I wanted to bet back to the top five on the money list, definitely the top 10.'
 
The swing - still a work in progress - has Webb hitting more of a fade, the total opposite of how she once hit the ball while dominating the LPGA Tour from the time she arrived from Australia nine years ago.
 
Eventually, she believes she will be able to hit the ball both directions with ease. But that takes time.
 
'I think it's going to be 12 months to 18 months before I really feel comfortable with what I'm doing,' Webb said.
 
That's not to say she ruled herself out at DuPont.
 
She won the Kellogg-Keebler Classic outside Chicago by five shots, a large margin for a 54-hole event. The fairways started looking wider, the cup bigger.
 
'It didn't hurt my confidence any,' she said.
 
So many others are loaded with confidence at the second major of the LPGA season.
 
It starts with Annika Sorenstam, the most dominant player in more than 40 years on the LPGA Tour. While her goal of the Grand Slam this year ended with a tie for 13th at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the 33-year-old Swede now wants to win the final three majors.
 
She is the defending champion at the McDonald's LPGA Championship, and still recalls the 7-wood she hit into the 18th green to secure par and get into a playoff, where she defeated Grace Park on the first extra hole.
 
'Wonderful memories,' Sorenstam said.
 
Not so for Park, the 25-year-old native of South Korea who also will be a top favorite this week.
 
Park was playing a practice round at DuPont earlier in the week when she came to the 18th and swore she was in about the same spot in the fairway as she was last year in the playoff.
 
It made her wonder why she tried to hammer a 4-iron when she had been hitting controlled, punch shots with more club throughout the final round of 67. In a sense, Park feels like she let that one get away.
 
And she has promised not to do it again.
 
So far, that's worked.
 
Three months ago, she holed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Mission Hills to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major of her career and a clear sign the awesome potential she showed as an amateur is ready to come to fruition.
 
'Finishing second here last year makes me want to win this more,' she said. 'Winning the first major of the year makes me crave my second major. I really want to do it. Since winning Kraft Nabisco, I've kind of slowed down, and I think it's finally time for me to step up again.
 
'This is the week to do it.'
 
Second on the money list and in the player of the year standings, Park comes into the LPGA Championship with another 'No. 2' in mind - trying to capture the second leg of the Grand Slam.
 
Her life has been geared toward this. Born in South Korea, she moved to the United States when she was 12 to learn how to play golf. She won an NCAA title at Arizona State, and in 1998 joined Patty Berg as the only women to sweep the top three women's amateur events in one year.
 
Unlike the instant success enjoyed by Se Ri Pak (two majors as a rookie) and Webb, Park's progress has been slow. She has never won more than one tournament in a season, and that remains the case this year.
 
Then again, her lone title was a major, and her peers expect greatness to follow.
 
'I've always respected Grace's game,' Sorenstam said. 'And most of all, I really like her attitude. She's very motivated. It was just a matter of time for Grace to win the first major. I don't think anybody was surprised.'
 
The McDonald's LPGA Championship has a recent history of bringing out the best in women's golf.
 
Pak has won twice here in the last six years, and she is as big a threat to Sorenstam as anyone. Juli Inkster won back to back at the LPGA Championship and, two weeks before her 44th birthday, has not shown any signs of slowing down.
 
They face a DuPont course that has some of the thickest rough they will see all year, including the U.S. Women's Open in three weeks. The greens have subtle contours that are difficult to read. Twice since 2000, the winner has shot over par in the final round.
 
'It's a true test,' Sorenstam said.
 
Related Links:
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  • Full Coverage - McDonald's LPGA Championship
     
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